Of the necessity of force, in matters of religion.
You tell us “you do not ground the lawfulness of such force, as you take to be useful for the promoting the true religion, upon the bare usefulness of such force, but upon the necessity as well as usefulness of it; and therefore you declare it to be no fit means to be used, either for that purpose or any other, where it is not necessary as well as useful.”
How useful force in the magistrate’s hand for bringing men to the true religion, is like to be, we have shown in the foregoing chapter, in answer to what you have said for it. So that it being proved not useful, it is impossible it should be necessary. However we will examine what you say to prove the necessity of it. The foundation you build on for its necessity we have in your Argument considered, p. 10; where having at large dilated on men’s inconsiderateness in the choice of their religions, and their persisting in those they have once chosen, without due examination, you conclude thus: “Now if this be the case, if men are so averse to a due consideration, if they usually take up their religion, without examining it as they ought, what other means is there left?” Wherein you suppose force necessary, instead of proving it to be so; for preaching and persuasion not prevailing upon all men, you upon your own authority think fit something else should be done; and that being resolved, you readily pitch on force, because you say you can find nothing else; which in effect is only to tell us, if the salvation of men’s souls were only left to your discretion, how you would order the matter.
And in your answer to me, you very confidently tell us, “the true religion cannot prevail without the assistance either of miracles or of authority.” I shall here only observe one or two things, and then go on to examine how you make this good.
The first thing I shall observe is, that in your “argument considered,” &c. you suppose force necessary only to master the aversion there is in men to considering and examination: and here in your answer to me, you make force necessary to conquer the aversion there is in men to embrace and obey the true religion. Which are so very different, that the former justifies the use of force only to make men consider; the other justifies the use of force to make men embrace religion. If you meant the same thing when you writ your first treatise, it was not very ingenuous to express yourself in such words as were not proper to give your reader your true meaning: it being a far different thing to use force to make men consider; which is an action in their power to do or omit; and to use force to make them embrace, i. e. believe any religion; which is not a thing in any one’s power to do or forbear as he pleases. If you say you meant barely considering in your first paper, as the whole current of it would make one believe; then I see your hypothesis may mend, as we have seen in other parts, and, in time, may grow to its full stature.
Another thing I shall remark to you, is, that in your first paper, besides preaching and persuasion, and the grace of God, nothing but force was necessary. Here in your second, it is either miracles or authority, which how you make good, we will now consider.
You having said, you had “no reason from any experiment to expect that the true religion should be any way the gainer by toleration,” I instanced in the prevailing of the gospel, by its own beauty, force, and reasonableness in the first ages of christianity. You reply, that it has not the same beauty, force, and reasonableness now, that it had then, unless “I conclude miracles too, which are now ceased; and, as you tell us, were not withdrawn, till by their help christianity had prevailed to be received for the religion of the empire, and to be encouraged and supported by the laws of it.”
If therefore we will believe you upon your own word, force being necessary, (for prove it necessary you never can,) you have entered into the counsel of God, and tell us, when force could not be had, miracles were employed to supply its want: “I cannot but think, say you, it is highly probable (if we may be allowed to guess at the counsels of infinite wisdom) that God was pleased to continue them till then,” i. e. till the laws of the empire supported christianity, “not so much for any necessity there was of them all that time, for the evincing the truth of the christian religion; as to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance.” You allow yourself to guess very freely, when you will make God use miracles to supply a means he no-where authorized or appointed. How long miracles continued we shall see anon.
Say you, “If we may be allowed to guess:” this modesty of yours where you confess you guess, is only concerning the time of the continuing of miracles; but as to their supplying the want of coactive force, that you are positive in, both here and where you tell us, “Why penalties were not necessary at first, to make men to give ear to the gospel, has already been shown;” and a little after, “the great and wonderful things which were to be done for the evidencing the truth of the gospel, were abundantly sufficient to procure attention,” &c. How you come to know so undoubtedly that miracles were made use of to supply the magistrate’s authority, since God no-where tells you so, you would have done well to show.
But in your opinion force was necessary, and that could not then be had, and so God must use miracles. For, say you, “Our Saviour was no magistrate, and therefore could not inflict political punishments upon any man; so much less could he impower his apostles to do it.” Could not our Saviour impower his apostles to denounce or inflict punishments on careless or obstinate unbelievers, to make them hear and consider? You pronounce very boldly methinks of Christ’s power, and set very narrow limits to what at another time you would not deny to be infinite: but it was convenient here for your present purpose, that it should be so limited. But, they not being magistrates, “he could not impower his apostles to inflict political punishments.” How is it of a sudden, that they must be political punishments? You tell us all that is necessary, is to “lay briars and thorns in men’s ways, to trouble and disease them to make them consider.” This I hope our Saviour had power to do, if he had found it necessary, without the assistance of the magistrate; he could have always done by his apostles and ministers, if he had so thought fit, what he did once by St. Peter, have dropped briars and thorns into their very minds, that should have pricked, troubled, and diseased them sufficiently. But sometimes it is briars and thorns only, that you want; sometimes it must be human means; and sometimes, as here, nothing will serve your turn but political punishments; just as will best suit your occasion, in the argument you have then before you.
That the apostles could lay on punishments, as troublesome and as great as any political ones when they were necessary, we see in Ananias and Sapphira: and he that had “all power given him in heaven and in earth,” could, if he had thought fit, have laid briars and thorns in the way of all that received not his doctrine.
You add, “But as he could not punish men to make them hear him, so neither was there any need that he should. He came as a prophet sent from God to reveal a new doctrine to the world: and therefore to prove his mission, he was to do such things as could only be done by a divine power: and the works which he did were abundantly sufficient both to gain him a hearing, and to oblige the world to receive his doctrine.” Thus the want of force and punishments is supplied. How far? so far as they are supposed necessary to gain a hearing, and so far as to oblige the world to receive Christ’s doctrine; whereby, as I suppose, you mean sufficient to lay an obligation on them to receive his doctrine, and render them inexcusable if they did not: but that they were not sufficient to make all that saw them effectually to receive and embrace the gospel, I think is evident; and you will not I imagine say, that all who saw Christ’s miracles believed on him. So that miracles were not to supply the want of such force, as was to be continued on men to make them consider as they ought, i. e. till they embraced the truth that must save them. For we have little reason to think that our Saviour, or his apostles, contended with their neglect or refusal by a constant train of miracles, continued on to those who were not wrought upon by the gospel preached to them. St. Matthew tells us, chap. xiii. 58, that he did not many mighty works in his own country, because of their unbelief; much less were miracles to supply the want of force in that use you make of it, where you tell us it is to punish the fault of not being of the true religion: for we do not find any miraculously punished to bring them in to the gospel. So that the want of force to either of these purposes not being supplied by miracles, the gospel it is plain subsisted and spread itself without force so made use of, and without miracles to supply the want of it; and therefore it so far remains true, that the gospel having the same beauty, force, and reasonableness now as it had at the beginning, it wants not force to supply the defect of miracles, to that for which miracles were no-where made use of. And so far, at least, the experiment is good, and this assertion true, that the gospel is able to prevail by its own light and truth, without the continuance of force on the same person, or punishing men for not being of the true religion.
You say, “Our Saviour, being no magistrate, could not inflict political punishments; much less could he impower his apostles to do it.” I know not what need there is, that it should be political; so there were so much punishment used, as you say is sufficient to make men consider, it is not necessary it should come from this or that hand: or if there be any odds in that, we should be apt to think it would come best, and most effectually, from those who preached the gospel, and could tell them it was to make them consider; than from the magistrate, who neither doth, nor according to your scheme can, tell them it is to make them consider. And this power, you will not deny, but our Saviour could have given to the apostles.
But if there were such absolute need of political punishments, Titus or Trajan might as well have been converted as Constantine. For how true it is, that miracles supplied the want of force from those days till Constantine’s, and then ceased, we shall see by and by. I say not this to enter boldly into the counsels of God, or to take upon me to censure the conduct of the Almighty, or to call his providence to an account; but to answer your saying, “Our Saviour was no magistrate, and therefore could not inflict political punishments.” For he could have had both magistrates and political punishments at his service, if he had thought fit; and needed not to have continued miracles longer “than there was necessity for evincing the truth of the christian religion, as you imagine, to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance, by force, which is necessary.”
But how come you to know that force is necessary? Has God revealed it in his word? no-where. Has it been revealed to you in particular? that you will not say. What reason have you for it? none at all but this, That having set down the grounds, upon which men take up and persist in their religion, you conclude, “what means is there left but force?” Force therefore you conclude necessary, because without any authority, but from your own imagination, you are peremptory, that other means, besides preaching and persuasion, is to be used, and therefore it is necessary, because you can think of no other.
When I tell you there is other means, and that by your own confession the grace of God is another means, and therefore force is not necessary; you reply, “Though the grace of God be another means, and you thought fit to mention it, to prevent cavils: yet it is none of the means of which you were speaking, in the place I refer to; which any one who reads that paragraph will find to be only human means: and therefore though the grace of God be both a proper and sufficient means, and such as can work by itself, and without which neither penalties nor any other means can do any thing; yet it may be true however, that when admonitions and intreaties fail, there is no human means left, but penalties, to bring prejudiced persons to hear and consider what may convince them of their errours, and discover the truth to them. And then penalties will be necessary in respect to that end as a human means.”
In which words, if you mean an answer to my argument, it is this, that force is necessary, because to bring men into the right way there is other human means necessary, besides admonitions and persuasions. For else what have we to do with human in the case? But it is no small advantage one owes to logic, that where sense and reason fall short, a distinction ready at hand may eke it out. Force, when persuasions will not prevail, is necessary, say you, because it is the only means left. When you are told it is not the only means left, and so cannot be necessary on that account: you reply, that “when admonitions and intreaties fail, there is no human means left, but penalties, to bring prejudiced persons to hear and consider what may convince them of their errors, and discover the truth to them: and then penalties will be necessary in respect to that end, as a human means.”
Suppose it be urged to you, when your moderate lower penalties fail, there is no human means left but dragooning and such other severities; which you say you condemn as much as I, “to bring prejudiced persons to hear and consider what may convince them of their errours, and discover the truth to them.” And then dragooning, imprisonment, scourging, fining, &c. will be necessary in respect to that end, as a human means. What can you say but this? that you are impowered to judge what degrees of human means are necessary, but others are not. For without such a confidence in your own judgment, where God has said how much, nor that any force is necessary; I think this is as good an argument for the highest, as yours is for the lower penalties. When “admonitions and intreaties will not prevail, then penalties, lower penalties, some degrees of force will be necessary, say you, as a human means.” And when your lower penalties, your some degrees of force will not prevail, then higher degrees will be necessary, say I, as a human means. And my reason is the same with yours, because there is no other means, i. e. human means, left. Show me how your argument concludes for lower punishments being necessary, and mine not for higher, even to dragooning, “& eris mihi magnus Apollo.”
But let us apply this to your succedaneum of miracles, and then it will be much more admirable. You tell us, admonitions and intreaties not prevailing to bring men into the right way, “force is necessary, because there is no other means left.” To that it is said, yes, there is other means left, the grace of God. Ay, but, say you, that will not do; because you speak only of human means. So that according to your way of arguing, some other human means is necessary: for you yourself tell us, that the means you were speaking of where you say, “that when admonitions and intreaties will not do, what other means is there left but force? were human means.” Your words are, “which any one, who reads that paragraph, will find to be only human means.” By this argument then other human means are necessary besides preaching and persuasion, and those human means you have found out to be either force or miracles: the latter are certainly notable human means. And your distinction of human means serves you to very good purpose, having brought miracles to be one of your human means. Preaching and admonitions, say you, are not sufficient to bring men into the right way, something else is necessary; yes, the grace of God; no, say you, that will not do, it is not human means: it is necessary to have other human means; therefore, in the three or four first centuries after christianity, the insufficiency of preaching and admonitions was made up with miracles, and thus the necessity of other human means is made good. But to consider a little farther your miracles as supplying the want of force.
The question between us here is, whether the christian religion did not prevail in the first ages of the church, by its own beauty, force, and reasonableness, without the assistance of force? I say it did, and therefore external force is not necessary. To this you reply, “That it cannot prevail by its own light and strength, without the assistance either of miracles, or of authority; and therefore the christian religion not being still accompanied with miracles, force is now necessary.” So that to make your equivalent of miracles correspond with your necessary means of force, you seem to require an actual application of miracles, or of force, to prevail with men to receive the gospel; i. e. men could not be prevailed with to receive the gospel without actually seeing of miracles. For when you tell us, that “you are sure I cannot say the christian religion is still accompanied with miracles, as it was at its first planting;” I hope you do not mean that the gospel is not still accompanied with an undoubted testimony that miracles were done by the first publishers of it; which was as much of miracles, as I suppose the greatest part of those had, with whom the christian religion prevailed, till it was “supported and encouraged, as you tell us, by the laws of the empire;” for I think you will not say, or if you should, you could not expect to be believed, that all, or the greatest part of those, that embraced the christian religion, before it was supported by the laws of the empire, which was not till the fourth century, had actually miracles done before them, to work upon them. And all those, who were not eye-witnesses of miracles done in their presence, it is plain had no other miracles than we have; that is, upon report; and it is probable not so many, nor so well attested as we have. The greatest part then, of those who were converted, at least in some of those ages, before christianity was supported by the laws of the empire, I think you must allow, were wrought upon by bare preaching, and such miracles as we still have, miracles at a distance, related miracles. In others, and those the greatest number, prejudice was not so removed, that they were prevailed on to consider, to consider as they ought, i. e. in your language, to consider so as to embrace. If they had not so considered in our day’s what, according to your scheme, must have been done to them, that did not consider as they ought? Force must have been applied to them. What therefore in the primitive church was to be done to them? Why! your succedaneum miracles, actual miracles, such as you deny the christian religion to be still accompanied with, must have been done in their presence, to work upon them. Will you say this was so, and make a new church-history for us, and outdo those writers who have been thought pretty liberal of miracles? If you do not, you must confess miracles supplied not the place of force; and so let fall all your fine contrivance about the necessity either of force or miracles; and perhaps you will think it at last a more becoming modesty, not to set the divine power and providence on work by rules, and for the ends of your hypothesis, without having any thing in authentic history, much less in divine and unerring revelation to justify you. But force and power deserve something more than ordinary and allowable arts or arguments, to get and keep them: “si violandum sit jus, regnandi causa violandum est.”
If the testimony of miracles having been done were sufficient to make the gospel prevail, without force, on those who were not high eye-witnesses of them; we have that still, and so upon that account need not force to supply the want of it; but if truth must have either the law of the country, or actual miracles to support it; what became of it after the reign of Constantine the great, under all those emperors that were erroneous or heretical? It supported itself in Piedmont, and France, and Turkey, many ages without force or miracles: and is spread itself in divers nations and kingdoms of the north and east, without any force, or other miracles than those that were done many ages before. So that I think you will, upon second thoughts, not deny, but that the true religion is able to prevail now, as it did at first, and has done since in many places, without assistance from the powers in being; by its own beauty, force, and reasonableness, whereof well-attested miracles are a part.
But the account you give us of miracles will deserve to be a little examined. We have it in these words, Considering that those extraordinary means were not withdrawn, till by their help christianity had prevailed to be received for the religion of the empire, and to be supported and encouraged by the laws of it; you cannot, you say, but think it highly probable (if we may be allowed to guess at the counsels of infinite wisdom) that God was pleased to continue them till then; not so much for any necessity there was of them all that while, for the evincing the truth of the christian religion; as to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance.” Miracles then, if what you say be true, were continued till “christianity was received for the religion of the empire, not so much to evince the truth of the christian religion, as to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance.” But in this the learned author, whose testimony you quote, fails you. For he tells you that the chief use of miracles in the church, after the truth of the christian religion had been sufficiently confirmed by them in the world, was to oppose the false and pretended miracles of heretics and heathens; and answerable hereunto miracles ceased and returned again, as such oppositions made them more or less necessary. Accordingly miracles, which before had abated, in Trajan’s and Hadrian’s time, which was in the latter end of the first, or beginning of the second century, did again revive to confound the magical delusions of the heretics of that time. And in the third century the heretics using no such tricks, and the faith being confirmed, they by degrees ceased, of which there then, he says, could be no imaginable necessity. His words are, “Et quidem eo minus necessaria sunt pro veterum principiis recentiora illa miracula, quod hæreticos, quos appellant, nullos adversarios habeant, qui contraria illis dogmata astruant miraculis. Sic enim vidimus, apud veteres, dum nulli ecclesiam exercerent adversarii, seu hæretici, seu Gentiles; aut satis illi præteritis miraculis fuissent refutati; aut nullas ipsi præstigias opponerent quæ veris essent miraculis oppugnandæ; subductam deinde paulatim esse mirificam illam spiritus virtutem. Ortos sub Trajano Hadrianoque hæreticos ostendimus præstigiis magicis fuisse usos, & proinde miraculorum verorum in ecclesia usum una revixisse. Ne dicam præstigiatores etiam Gentiles eodem illo seculo sane frequentissimos, Apuleium in Africa, in Asia Alexandrum Pseudomantim, multosque alios quorum meminit Aristides. Tertio seculo orto, hæretici Hermogenes, Praxeas, Noetus, Theodotus, Sabellius, Novatianus, Artemas, Samosatenus, nulla, ut videtur, miracula ipsi venditabant, nullis propterea miraculis oppugnandi. Inde vidimus, apud ipsos etiam Catholicos, sensim defecisse miracula. Et quidem, hæreticis nulla in contrarium miracula ostentantibus, quæ tandem fingi potest miraculorum necessitas traditam ab initio fidem, miraculisque adeo jamdudum confirmatam prædicantibus? Nulla certe prorsus pro primævo miraculorum exemplo. Nulla denique consciis vere primævam esse fidem quam novis miraculis suscipiunt confirmandam.” Dodwell, Dissertat. in Iræn. Diss. II. Sect. 65.
The history therefore you have from him, of miracles, serves for his hypothesis, but not at all for yours. For if they were continued to supply the want of force, which was to deal with the corruption of depraved human nature; that being, without any great variation in the world, constantly the same, there could be no reason why they should abate and fail, and then return and revive again. So that there being then, as you suppose, no necessity of miracles for any other end, but to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance; they must, to suit that end, be constant and regularly the same as you would have force to be, which is steadily and uninterruptedly to be applied, as a constantly necessary remedy to the corrupt nature of mankind.
If you allow the learned Dodwell’s reasons, for the continuation of miracles, till the fourth century, your hypothesis, that they were continued to supply the magistrate’s assistance, will be only precarious. For if there was need of miracles till that time to other purposes; the continuation of them in the church, though you could prove them to be as frequent and certain as those of our Saviour and the apostles; it would not advantage your cause: since it would be no evidence, that they were used for that end; which as long as there were other visible uses of them, you could not, without revelation, assure us were made use of by divine Providence “to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance.” You must therefore confute his hypothesis, before you can make any advantage of what he says, concerning the continuation of miracles, for the establishing of yours. For till you can show, that that which he assigns was not the end, for which they were continued in the church; the utmost you can say, is, that it may be imagined, that one reason of their continuation was to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance: but what you can without proof imagine possible, I hope you do not expect should be received as an unquestionable proof that it was so. I can imagine it possible they were not continued for that end, and one imagination will be as good a proof as another.
To do your modesty right therefore, I must allow, that you do faintly offer at some kind of reason, to prove that miracles were continued to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance: and since God has no-where declared, that it was for that end, you would persuade us in this paragraph, that it was so, by two reasons. One is, that the truth of the christian religion being sufficiently evinced by the miracles done by our Saviour and his apostles, and perhaps their immediate successors; there was no other need of miracles to be continued till the fourth century; and therefore they were used by God to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance. This I take to be the meaning of these words of yours, “I cannot but think it highly probable that God was pleased to continue them till then; not so much for any necessity there was of them all that while for the evincing the truth of the christian religion, as to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance.” Whereby I suppose, you do not barely intend to tell the world what is your opinion in the case; but use this as an argument, to make it probable to others, that this was the end for which miracles were continued; which at the best will be but a very doubtful probability to build such a bold assertion on, as this of yours is, viz. That “the christian religion is not able to subsist and prevail in the world, by its own light and strength, without the assistance either of force, or actual miracles.” And therefore you must either produce a declaration from heaven that authorizes you to say, that miracles were used to supply the want of force; or show that there was no other use of them but this. For if any other use can be assigned of them, as long they continued in the church, one may safely deny, that they were to supply the want of force: and it will lie upon you to prove it by some other way than by saying you think it highly probable. For I suppose you do not expect that your thinking any thing highly probable, should be a sufficient reason for others to acquiesce in, when perhaps, the history of miracles considered, nobody could bring himself to say he thought it probable, but one whose hypothesis stood in need of such a poor support.
The other reason you seem to build on is this, that when christianity was received for the religion of the empire, miracles ceased; because there was then no longer any need of them: which I take to be the argument insinuated in these words, “Considering that those extraordinary means were not withdrawn till by their help christianity had prevailed to be received for the religion of the empire.” If then you can make it appear that miracles lasted till christianity was received for the religion of the empire, without any other reason for their continuation, but to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance; and that they ceased as soon as the magistrates became christians; your argument will have some kind of probability, that within the Roman empire this was the method God used for the propagating the christian religion. But it will not serve to make good your position, “that the christian religion cannot subsist and prevail by its own strength and light, without the assistance of miracles or authority,” unless you can show, that God made use of miracles to introduce and support it in other parts of the world, not subject to the Roman empire, till the magistrates there also became christians. For the corruption of nature being the same without, as within the bounds of the Roman empire: miracles, upon your hypothesis, were as necessary to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance in other countries as in the Roman empire. For I do not think you will find the civil sovereigns were the first converted in all those countries, where the christian religion was planted after Constantine’s reign: and in all those it will be necessary for you to show us the assistance of miracles.
But let us see how much your hypothesis is favoured by church-history. If the writings of the fathers of greatest name and credit are to be believed, miracles were not withdrawn when christianity had prevailed to be received for the religion of the empire. Athanasius, the great defender of the catholic orthodoxy, writ the life of his contemporary St. Anthony, full of miracles; which though some have questioned, yet the learned Dodwell allows to be writ by Athanasius: and the style evinces it to be his, which is also confirmed by other ecclesiastical writers.
“Palladius tells us, That Ammon did many miracles: but that particularly St. Athanasius related in the life of Anthony, that Ammon, going with some monks Anthony had sent to him, when they came to the river Lycus, which they were to pass, was afraid to strip for fear of seeing himself naked; and whilst he was in dispute of this matter, he was taken up, and in an ecstasy carried over by an angel, the rest of the monks swimming the river. When he came to Anthony, Anthony told him he had sent for him, because God had revealed many things to him concerning him, and particularly his translation. And when Ammon died, in his retirement, Anthony saw his soul carried into heaven by angels.” Palladius in vita Ammonis.
“Socrates tells us, That Anthony saw the soul of Ammon taken up by angels, as Athanasius writes in the life of Anthony.”
And again, says he, “It seems superfluous for me to relate the many miracles Anthony did; how he fought openly with devils, discovering all their tricks and cheats: for Athanasius bishop of Alexandria has prevented me on that subject, having writ a book particularly of his life.”
“Anthony was thought worthy of the vision of God, and led a life perfectly conformable to the laws of Christ. This, whoever reads the book, wherein is contained the history of his life, will easily know; wherein he will also see prophecy shining out: for he prophesied very clearly of those who were infected with the Arian contagion, and foretold what mischief from them was threatened to the churches; God truly revealing all these things to him, which is certainly the principal evidence of the catholic faith, no such man being to be found amongst the heretics. But do not take this upon my word, but read and study the book itself.”
This account you have from St. Chrysostom , whom Mr. Dodwell calls the contemner of fables.
St. Hierom, in his treatise “De viro perfecto,” speaks of the frequency of miracles done in his time, as a thing past question: besides those, not a few which he has left upon record, in the lives of Hilarion and Paul, two monks, whose lives he has writ. And he that has a mind to see the plenty of miracles of this kind, need but read the collection of the lives of the fathers, made by Rosweydus.
Ruffin tells us, That Athanasius lodged the bones of St. John Baptist in the wall of the church, knowing by the spirit of prophecy the good they were to do to the next generation: and of what efficacy and use they were, may be concluded from the church with the golden roof, built to them soon after, in the place of the temple of Serapis.
St. Austin tells us , “That he knew a blind man restored to sight by the bodies of the Milan martyrs, and some other such things; of which kind there were so many done in that time, that many escaped his knowledge; and those which he knew, were more than he could number.” More of this you may see Epist. 137.
He further assure us, that by the single reliques of St. Stephen “a blind woman received her sight. Lucullus was cured of an old fistula; Eucharius of the stone; three gouty men recovered; a lad killed with a cart-wheel going over him, restored to life safe and sound, as if he had received no hurt: a nun lying at the point of death, they sent her coat to the shrine, but she dying before it was brought back, was restored to life by its being laid on her dead body. The like happened at Hippo to the daughter of Bassus; and two others,” whose names he sets down, were by the same reliques raised from the dead.
After these and other particulars there set down, of miracles done in his time by those reliques of St. Stephen, the holy father goes on thus: “What shall I do? Pressed by my promise of dispatching this work, I cannot here set down all: and without doubt many, when they shall read this, will be troubled that I have omitted so many particles, which they truly know as well as I . For if I should, passing by the rest, write only the miraculous cures which have been wrought by this most glorious martyr Stephen, in the colony of Calama, and this of ours, I should fill many books, and yet should not take in all of them: but only those of which there are collections published , which are read to the people: for this I took care should be done, when I saw that signs of divine power, like those of old, were frequent also in our times . It is not now two years since that shrine has been at Hippo: and many of the books which I certainly knew to be so, not being published, those which are published concerning those miraculous operations, amounted to near fifty when I writ this. But at Calama, where this shrine was before, there are more published, and their number is incomparably greater. At Uzal also a colony, and near Utica, we know many famous things to have been done by the same martyr.”
Two of those books he mentions, are printed in the appendix of the tenth tome of St. Austin’s works of Plantin’s edit. One of them contains two miracles; the other, as I remember, about seventeen. So that at Hippo alone, in two years time, we may count, besides those omitted, there were published above 600 miracles, and, as he says, incomparably more at Calama: besides what were done by other reliques of the same St. Stephen, in other parts of the world, which cannot be supposed to have had less virtue than those sent to this part of Africa. For the reliques of St. Stephen, discovered by the dream of a monk, were divided and sent into distant countries, and there distributed to several churches.
These may suffice to show, that if the fathers of the church of greatest name and authority are to be believed, miracles were not withdrawn, but continued down to the latter end of the fourth century, long after “christianity had prevailed to be received for the religion of the empire.”
But if these testimonies of Athanasius, Chrysostom, Palladius, Ruffin, St. Hierom, and St. Austin, will not serve your turn, you may find much more to this purpose in the same authors; and if you please, you may consult also St. Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Gregory Nyssen, St. Ambrose, St. Hilary, Theodoret, and others.
This being so, you must either deny the authority of these fathers, or grant that miracles continued in the church after “christianity was received for the religion of the empire: and then they could not be to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance,” unless they were to supply the want of what was not wanting: and therefore they were continued for some other end. Which end of the continuation of miracles, when you are so far instructed in as to be able to assure us, that it was different from that for which God made use of them in the second and third centuries; when you are so far admitted into the secrets of divine Providence, as to be able to convince the world that the miracles between the apostles’ and Constantine’s time, or any other period you shall pitch on, were to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance, and those after, for some other purpose, what you say may deserve to be considered. Until you do this, you will only show the liberty you take to assert with great confidence, though without any ground, whatever will suit your system; and that you do not stick to make bold with the counsels of infinite wisdom, to make them subservient to your hypothesis.
And so I leave you to dispose of the credit of ecclesiastical writers, as you shall think fit; and by your authority to establish, or invalidate, theirs as you please. But this, I think, is evident, that he who will build his faith or reasonings upon miracles delivered by church-historians, will find cause to go no farther than the apostles’ time, or else not to stop at Constantine’s: since the writers after that period, whose word we readily take as unquestionable in other things, speak of miracles in their time with no less assurance, than the fathers before the fourth century; and a great part of the miracles of the second and third centuries stand upon the credit of the writers of the fourth. So that that sort of argument which takes and rejects the testimony of the ancients at pleasure, as may best suit with it, will not have much force with those who are not disposed to embrace the hypothesis, without any arguments at all.
You grant, “That the true religion has always light and strength of its own, i. e. without the assistance of force or miracles, sufficient to prevail with all that considered it seriously, and without prejudice; that therefore, for which the assistance of force is wanting, is to make men consider seriously, and without prejudice.” Now whether the miracles that we have still, miracles done by Christ and his apostles, attested, as they are, by undeniable history, be not fitter to deal with men’s prejudices, than force, and than force which requires nothing but outward conformity, I leave the world to judge. All the assistance the true religion needs from authority, is only a liberty for it to be truly taught; but it has seldom had that, from the powers in being, in its first entry into their dominions, since the withdrawing of miracles: and yet I desire you to tell me, into what country the gospel, accompanied, as now it is, only with past miracles, hath been brought by the preaching of men, who have laboured in it after the example of the apostles, where it did not so prevail over men’s prejudices, that “as many as were ordained to eternal life” considered and believed it. Which, as you may see, Acts xiii. 48, was all the advance it made, even when assisted with the gift of miracles: for neither then were all, or the majority, wrought on to consider and embrace it.
But yet the gospel “cannot prevail by its own light and strength;” and therefore miracles were to supply the place of force. How was force used? A law being made, there was a continued application of punishment to all those whom it brought not to embrace the doctrine proposed. Were miracles so used till force took place? For this we shall want more new church-history, and I think contrary to what we read in that part of it which is unquestionable: I mean in the Acts of the Apostles, where we shall find, that the then promulgators of the gospel, when they had preached, and done what miracles the spirit of God directed, if they prevailed not, they often left them; “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy, we turn to the gentiles, Acts xiii. 46. They shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium, Acts xiii. 51. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, Acts xix. 9. Paul was pressed in spirit, and testified to the jews that Jesus was Christ; and when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads: I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the gentiles.” Acts xviii. 6. Did the christian magistrates ever do so, who thought it necessary to support the christian religion by laws? Did they ever, when they had a while punished those whom persuasions and preaching had not prevailed on, give off, and leave them to themselves, and make trial of their punishment upon others? Or is this your way of force and punishment? If it be not, yours is not what miracles came to supply the room of, and so is not necessary. For you tell us, they are punished to make them consider, and they can never be supposed to consider “as they ought, whilst they persist in rejecting;” and therefore they are justly punished to make them so consider: so that not so considering being the fault for which they are punished, and the amendment of that fault the end which is designed to be attained by punishing, the punishment must continue. But men were not always beat upon with miracles. To this, perhaps, you will reply, that the seeing of a miracle or two, or half a dozen, was sufficient to procure a hearing; but that being punished once or twice, or half a dozen times, is not: for you tell us, “the power of miracles communicated to the apostles, served altogether as well as punishment, to procure them a hearing:” where, if you mean by hearing, only attention; who doubts but punishment may also procure that? If you mean by hearing, receiving and embracing what is proposed; that even miracles themselves did not effect upon all eye-witnesses. Why then, I beseech you, if one be to supply the place of the other, is one to be continued on those who do reject; when the other was never long continued, nor, as I think we may safely say, often repeated to those who persisted in their former persuasions?
After all, therefore, may not one justly doubt, whether miracles supplied the place of punishment? nay, whether you yourself, if you be true to your own principles, can think so? You tell us, that not to join “themselves to the true church, where sufficient evidence is offered to convince men that it is so, is a fault that it cannot be unjust to punish.” Let me ask you now; did the apostles by their preaching and miracles offer sufficient evidence to convince men that the church of Christ was the true church; or, which is, in this case, the same thing, that the doctrine they preached was the true religion? If they did, were not those, who persisted in unbelief, guilty of a fault? And if some of the miracles done in those days should now be repeated, and yet men should not embrace the doctrine, or join themselves to the church which those miracles accompanied; would you not think them guilty of a fault which the magistrate might justly, nay ought to punish? If you would answer truly and sincerely to this question, I doubt you would think your beloved punishments necessary notwithstanding miracles, “there being no other human means left.” I do not make this judgment of you from any ill opinion I have of your good-nature; but it is consonant to your principles: for if not professing the true religion, where sufficient evidence is offered by bare preaching, be a fault, and a fault justly to be punished by the magistrate, you will certainly think it much more his duty to punish a greater fault, as you must allow it is, to reject truth proposed with arguments and miracles, than with bare arguments: since you tell us, that the magistrate is “obliged to procure, as much as in him lies, that every man take care of his own soul; i. e. consider as he ought; which no man can be supposed to do, whilst he persists in rejecting:” as you tell us, p. 24.
Miracles, say you, supplied the want of force, “till by their help christianity had prevailed to be received for the religion of the empire.” Not that the magistrates had not as much commission then, from the law of nature, to use force for promoting the true religion, as since: but because the magistrates then, not being of the true religion, did not afford it the assistance of their political power. If this be so, and there be a necessity either of force or miracles, will there not be the same reason for miracles ever since, even to this day, and so on to the end of the world, in all those countries where the magistrate is not of the true religion? “Unless, as you urge it, you will say (what without impiety cannot be said) that the wise and benign disposer of all things has not furnished mankind with competent means for the promoting his own honour in the world, and the good of souls.”
But to put an end to your pretence to miracles, as supplying the place of force. Let me ask you, whether, since the withdrawing of miracles, your moderate degree of force has been made use of, for the support of the christian religion? If not, then miracles were not made use of to supply the want of force, unless it were for the supply of such force as christianity never had; which is for the supply of just no force at all; or else for the supply of the severities which have been in use amongst christians, which is worse than none at all. Force, you say, is necessary; what force? “not fire and sword, not loss of estates, not maiming with corporal punishments, not starving and tormenting in noisome prisons:” those you condemn. “Not compulsion: these severities, you say, are apter to hinder, than promote the true religion; but moderate lower penalties, tolerable inconveniencies, such as should a little disturb and disease men.” This assistance not being to be had from the magistrates, in the first ages of christianity, miracles, say you, were continued till “christianity became the religion of the empire, not so much for any necessity there was of them, all that while, for the evincing the truth of the christian religion, as to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance. For the true religion not being able to support itself by its own light and strength, without the assistance either of miracles, or of authority,” there was a necessity, of the one or the other; and therefore, whilst the powers in being assisted not with necessary force, miracles supplied that want. Miracles then being to supply necessary force, and necessary force being only “lower moderate penalties, some inconveniencies, such as only disturb and disease a little;” if you cannot show that in all countries, where the magistrates have been christian, they have assisted with such force; it is plain that miracles supplied not the want of necessary force; unless to supply the want of your necessary force, for a time, were to supply the want of an assistance, which true religion had not upon the with-drawing of miracles; and I think I may say, was never thought on by any authority, in any age or country, till you now, above thirteen hundred years after, made this happy discovery. Nay, sir, since the true religion, as you tell us, cannot prevail or subsist without miracles or authority, i. e. your moderate force, it must necessarily follow, that the christian religion has, in all ages and countries, been accompanied either with actual miracles, or such force: which, whether it be so or no, I leave you and all sober men to consider. When you can show, that it has been so, we shall have reason to be satisfied with your bold assertion: that the christian religion, as delivered in the New Testament, cannot “prevail by its own light and strength, without the assistance” of your moderate penalties, or of actual miracles accompanying it. But if ever since the withdrawing of miracles in all christian countries, where force has been thought necessary by the magistrate to support the national, or, as every-where it is called, the true religion, those severities have been made use of, which you, for a good reason, “condemn, as apter to hinder than promote the true religion;” it is plain that miracles supplied the want of such an assistance from the magistrate, as was apter to hinder than promote the true religion. And your substituting of miracles to supply the want of moderate force will show nothing, for your cause, but the zeal of a man so fond of force, that he will without any warrant from scripture enter into the counsels of the Almighty; and without authority from history talk of miracles, and political administrations, as may best suit his system.
To my saying, a religion that is from God, wants not the assistance of human authority to make it prevail; you answer, “This is not simply nor always true. Indeed when God takes the matter wholly into his own hands, as he does at his first revealing any religion, there can be no need of any assistance of human authority; but when God has once sufficiently settled his religion in the world, so that if men from thenceforth will do what they may and ought, in their several capacities, to preserve and propagate it, it may subsist and prevail without that extraordinary assistance from him, which was necessary for its first establishment.” By this rule of yours, how long was there need of miracles to make christianity subsist and prevail? If you will keep to it, you will find there was no need of miracles, after the promulgation of the gospel by Christ and his apostles: for I ask you, was it not then so “sufficiently settled in the world, that if men would from thenceforth have done what they might and ought, in their several capacities,” it would have subsisted and prevailed without that extraordinary assistance of miracles? unless you will on this occasion retract what you say in other places, viz. that it is a fault not to receive the “true religion, where sufficient evidence is offered to convince men that it is so.” If then, from the times of the apostles, the christian religion has had sufficient evidence that it is the true religion, and men did their duty, i. e. receive it; it would certainly have subsisted and prevailed, even from the apostles times, without that extraordinary assistance; and then miracles after that were not necessary.
But perhaps you will say, that by men in their several capacities, you mean the magistrates. A pretty way of speaking, proper to you alone: but, even in that sense, it will not serve your turn. For then there will be need of miracles, not only in the time you propose, but in all times after. For if the magistrate, who is as much subject as other men to that corruption of human nature, by which you tell us false religions prevail against the true, should not do what he may and ought, so as to be of the true religion, as it is the odds he will not; what then will become of the true religion, which according to you cannot subsist or prevail without either the assistance of miracles or authority? Subjects cannot have the assistance of authority, where the magistrate is not of the true religion; and the magistrate wanting the assistance of authority to bring him to the true religion, that want must be still supplied with miracles, or else, according to your hypothesis, all must go to wreck; and the true religion, that cannot subsist by its own strength and light, must be lost in the world. For, I presume, you are scarce yet such an adorer of the powers of the world, as to say, that magistrates are privileged from that common corruption of mankind, whose opposition to the true religion you suppose cannot be overcome, without the assistance of miracles or force. The flock will stray, unless the bell-wether conduct them right; the bell-wether himself will stray, unless the shepherd’s crook and staff, which he has as much need of as any sheep of the flock, keep him right: ergo, the whole flock will stray, unless the bell-wether have that assistance which is necessary to conduct him right. The case is the same here. So that by your own rule, either there was no need of miracles to supply the want of force, after the apostles’ time, or there is need of them still.
But your answer, when looked into, has something in it more excellent. I say, a religion that is of God, wants not the assistance of human authority to make it prevail. You answer, “True, when God takes the matter into his own hands. But when once he has sufficiently settled religion, so that if men will but do what they may and ought, it may subsist without that extraordinary assistance from heaven; then he leaves it to their care.” Where you suppose, if men will do their duties in their several capacities, true religion, being once established, may subsist without miracles. And is it not as true, that if they will, in their several capacities, do what they may and ought, true religion will also subsist without force? But you are sure magistrates will do what they may and ought, to preserve and propagate the true religion, but subjects will not. If you are not, you must bethink yourself how to answer that old question,
—“Sed quis custodiet ipsos Custodes?”—
To my having said, that prevailing without the assistance of force, I thought was made use of as an argument for the truth of the christian religion: You reply that you hope “I am mistaken; for sure this is a very bad argument, That the christian religion, so contrary in the nature of it, as well to flesh and blood, as to the powers of darkness; should prevail as it did, and that not only without any assistance from authority, but even in spite of all the opposition which authority and a wicked world, joined with those infernal powers, could make against it. This, I acknowledge, has deservedly been insisted upon by christians as a very good proof of their religion. But to argue the truth of the christian religion, from its mere prevailing in the world, without any aid from force, or the assistance of the powers in being; as if whatever religion should so prevail, must needs be the true religion; whatever may be intended, is really not to defend the christian religion, but to betray it.” How you have mended the argument by putting in “mere,” which is not any where used by me, I will not examine. The question is, whether the christian religion, such as it was then, (for I know not any other christian religion) and is still “contrary to flesh and blood, and to the powers of darkness,” prevailed not without the assistance of human force, by those aids it has still? This, I think, you will not deny to be an argument used for its truth by christians, and some of our church. How far any one in the use of this argument pleases, or displeases you, I am not concerned. All the use I made of it was to show, that it is confessed that the christian religion did prevail, without that human means of the coactive power of the magistrate, which you affirmed to be necessary; and this, I think, makes good the experiment I brought. Nor will your seeking, your way, a refuge in miracles, help you to evade it; as I have already shown.
But you give a reason for what you say, in these following words: “for neither does the true religion always prevail without the assistance of the powers in being: nor is that always the true religion, which does so spread and prevail.” Those who use the argument of its prevailing without force, for the truth of the christian religion, it is like will tell you, that, if it be true, as you say, that the christian religion, which at other times does, sometimes does not, prevail without the assistance of the powers in being; it is, because when it fails, it wants the due assistance and diligence of the ministers of it: “How shall they hear without a preacher?” How shall the gospel be spread and prevail, if those who take on them to be the ministers and preachers of it, either neglect to teach it others as they ought; or confirm it not by their lives? If therefore you will make this argument of any use to you, you must show, where it was, that the ministers of the gospel, doing their duty by the purity of their lives, and their uninterrupted labour, in being instant in season, and out of season, have not been able to make it prevail. An instance of this, it is believed, you will scarce find: and if this be the case, that it fails not to prevail where those, whose charge it is, neglect not to teach and spread it with that care, assiduity, and application, which they ought; you may hereafter know where to lay the blame; not on the want of sufficient light and strength in the gospel to prevail; (wherein methinks you make very bold with it;) but on the want of what the apostle requires in the ministers of it; some part whereof you may read in these words to Timothy: “But thou, O man of God, follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness: give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine: preach the word, be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine;” and more to this purpose in his epistles to Timothy and Titus.
That the christian religion has prevailed, and supported itself in the world now above these sixteen hundred years, you must grant; and that it has not been by force, is demonstration. For wherever the christian religion prevailed, it did it, as far as we know any thing of the means of its propagation and support, without the help of that force, moderate force, which you say is alone useful and necessary. So that if the severities you condemn be, as you confess, apter to hinder than promote the gospel; and it has no-where had the assistance of your moderate penalties; it must follow, that it prevailed without force, only by its own strength and light, displayed and brought home to the understandings and hearts of the people, by the preachings, intreaties, and exhortations of its ministers. This at least you must grant, that force can be by no means necessary to make the gospel prevail any-where, till the utmost has been tried that can be done by arguments and exhortations, prayers and intreaties, and all the friendly ways of persuasion.
As to the other part of your assertion, “Nor is that always the true religion that does so spread and prevail,” it is like they will demand instances of you, where false religions ever prevailed against the gospel, without the assistance of force on the one side, or the betraying of it by the negligence and carelessness of its teachers on the other? So that if the gospel any-where wants the magistrate’s assistance, it is only to make the ministers of it do their duty. I have heard of those, and possibly there are instances of it now wanting, who by their pious lives, peaceable and friendly carriage, and diligent application to the several conditions and capacities of their parishioners, and screening them as much as they could from the penalties of the law, have in a short time scarce left a dissenter in a parish, where, notwithstanding the force had been before used, they scarce found any other. But how far this has recommended such ministers to those who ought to encourage or follow the example, I wish you would inform yourself, and then tell me. But who sees not that a justice of peace’s warrant is a shorter, and much easier way for the minister, than all this ado of instruction, debates, and particular application? Whether it be also more christian, or more effectual to make real converts, others may be apt to inquire. This, I am sure, it is not justifiable, even by your very principles, to be used till the other has been thoroughly tried.
How far our Saviour is like to approve of this method in those whom he sends; what reward he is like to bestow on ministers of his word, who are forward to bring their brethren under such correction; those who call themselves successors of the apostles, will do well to consider from what he himself says to them, Luke xii. 42. For that that was spoken particularly to the apostles and preachers of the gospel, is evident not only from the words themselves, but from St. Peter’s question. Our Saviour having in the foregoing verses declared in a parable the necessity of being watchful, St. Peter, verse 41, asks him, “Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?” To this demand our Saviour replies in these words: “Who then is that faithful and wise steward whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. Of a truth, I say unto you, he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But, and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants, and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken: the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware; and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with unbelievers; or with hypocrites,” as it is, Matt. xxiv. 51.
But if there be any thing in the argument for the truth of christianity, (as God forbid there should not,) that it has, and consequently can prevail without force; I think it can scarce be true in matter of fact, that false religions do also prevail against the christian religion, when they come upon equal terms in competition; and as much diligence and industry is used by the teachers of it, as by seducers to false religions, the magistrate using his force on neither side. For if in this case, which is the fair trial, christianity can prevail, and false religions too; it is possible contrarieties may prevail against one another both together. To make good therefore your assertion, you must show us, where ever any other religion so spread and prevailed, as to drive christianity out of any country without force, where the ministers of it did their duty to teach, adorn, and support it.
As to the following words, “Nor is that always the true religion which does so spread and prevail; as I doubt not but you will acknowledge with me, when you have but considered within how few generations after the flood, the worship of false gods prevailed against that which Noah professed and taught his children, which was undoubtedly the true religion, almost to the utter exclusion of it (though that at first was the only religion in the world), without any aid from force, or assistance from the powers in being.” This will need something more than a negative proof, as we shall see by and by.
Where I say, “The inventions of men need the force and help of men: a religion that is from God, wants not the assistance of human authority.” The first part of those words you take no notice of; neither grant nor deny it to be so; though perhaps it will prove a great part of the controversy between us.
To my question, “Whether if such a toleration as is proposed by the author of the first letter, were established in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, &c. the true religion would not be a gainer by it?” You answer, That the “true religion would be a loser by it in those few places where it is now established as the national religion;” and particularly you name England. It is then, it seems, by your way of moderate force and lower penalties, that in all countries where it is national the true religion hath prevailed and subsists. For the controversy is between the author’s universal toleration, and your new way of force; for greater degrees of force, you condemn as hurtful. Say then that in England, and wherever the true religion is national, it has been beholden to your force for the advantages and support it has had, and I will yield you the cause. But of national religions, and particularly that of England, I have occasion to speak more in another place.
In the next place you answer, That you suppose I do not hope I shall persuade the world to consent to my toleration. I think by your logic, a proposition is not less true or false, because the world will or will not be persuaded to consent to it. And therefore, though it will not consent to a general toleration, it may nevertheless be true that it would be advantageous to the true religion: and if nobody must speak truth till he thinks all the world will be persuaded by it, you must have a very good opinion of your oratory, or else you will have a very good excuse to turn your parsonage, when you have one, into a sinecure. But though I have not so good an opinion of my gift of persuasion, as perhaps you have of yours; yet I think I may without any great presumption hope, that I may as soon persuade England, the world, or any government in it, to consent to my toleration, as you persuade it to content itself with moderate penalties.
You farther answer, If such a toleration established there would permit the doctrine of the church of England to be truly preached, and its worship set up in any popish, mahometan, or pagan country, you think true religion would be a “gainer by it for some time; but you think withal, that an universal toleration would ruin it both there and every-where else in the end.” You grant it then possible, notwithstanding the corruption of human nature, that the true religion may gain some-where, and for some time, by toleration: it will gain under a new toleration you think, but decay under an old one; would you had told us the reason why you think so. “But you think there is great reason to fear, that without God’s extraordinary providence, it would in a much shorter time, than any one, who does not well consider the matter, will imagine, be most effectually extirpated by it throughout the world.” If you have considered right, and the matter be really so, it is demonstration that the christian religion, since Constantine’s time, as well as the true religion before Moses’s time, must needs have been totally extinguished out of the world, and have so continued, unless by miracle and immediate revelation restored. For those men, i. e. the magistrates, upon whose being of the true religion, the preservation of it, according to you, depends, living all of them under a free toleration, must needs lose the true religion effectually and speedily from among them; and, they quitting the true religion, the assistance of force, which should support it against a general defection, be utterly lost.
The princes of the world are, I suppose, as well infected with the depraved nature of man, as the rest of their brethren. These, whether a hundred or a thousand, suppose they lived together in one society, wherein with the true religion, there were a free toleration, and no coactive power of the magistrate employed about matters of religion; would the true religion be soon extirpated amongst them? If you say it would not, you must grant toleration not to be so destructive of the true religion, as you say; or you must think them of another race, than the rest of corrupt men, and free from that general taint. If you grant that the true religion would be quickly extirpated amongst them, by toleration, living together in one society; the same will happen to them, living as princes, where they are free from all coactive power of the magistrate in matters of religion, and have as large a toleration as can be imagined. Unless you will say, that depraved human nature works less in a prince than a subject; and is most tame, most mortified, where it has most liberty and temptation. Must not then, if your maxim be true, toleration quickly deprive the few orthodox princes that are in the world (take it when you will) of the true religion; and with them take away the assistance of authority, which is necessary to support it amongst their subjects? Toleration then does not, whatever your fears are, make that woeful wreck on true religion which you talk of.
I shall give you another evidence of it, and then come to examine your great reason taken from the corruption of human nature, and the instance you so often repeat, and build so much on, the apostacy after the flood. Toleration, you say, would quickly and effectually extirpate the true religion throughout the world. What now is the means to preserve true religion in the world? If you may be believed, it is force; but not all force, great severities, fire, faggot, imprisonment, loss of estate, &c. These will do more harm than good; it is only lower and moderate penalties, some tolerable inconveniencies, can do the business. If then moderate force hath not been all along, no, nor any-where, made use of for the preservation of the true religion; the maintenance and support of the true religion in the world, has not been owing to what you oppose to toleration; and so your argument against toleration is out of doors.
You give us in this and the foregoing pages the grounds of your fear; it is the corruption of human nature which opposes the true religion. You express it thus, “Idolatry prevailing against it [the true religion] not by its own light and strength, for it could have nothing of either, but merely by the advantage it had in the corruption and pravity of human nature, finding out to itself more agreeable religions than the true. For, say you, whatever hardships some false religions may impose, it will however always be easier to carnal worldly-minded men, to give even their first-born for their transgressions, than to mortify their lusts from which they spring; which no religion but the true requires of them.” I wonder, saying this, how you could any longer mistake the magistrate’s duty, in reference to religion, and not see wherein force truly can and ought to be serviceable to it. What you have said, plainly shows you, that the assistance the magistrate’s authority can give to the true religion, is in subduing of lusts; and its being directed against pride, injustice, rapine, luxury, and debauchery, and those other immoralities which come properly under his cognizance, and may be corrected by punishments; and not by the imposing of creeds and ceremonies, as you tell us. Sound and decent, you might have left out, whereof their fancies, and not the law of God, will always be judge, and consequently the rule.
The case between the true and false religions as you have stated it, in short, stands thus, “True religion has always light and strength of its own, sufficient to prevail with all that seriously consider it, and without prejudice. Idolatry or false religions have nothing of light or strength to prevail with.” Why then does not the true religion prevail against the false, having so much the advantage in light and strength? The counterbalance of prejudice hinders. And wherein does that consist? The drunkard must part with his cups and companions, and the voluptuous man with his pleasures. The proud and vain must lay by all excess in apparel, furniture, and attendance; and money (the support of all these) must be got only by the ways of justice, honesty, and fair industry: and every one must live peaceably, uprightly, and friendly with his neighbour. Here then the magistrate’s assistance is wanting: here they may and ought to interpose their power, and by severities against drunkenness, lasciviousness, and all sorts of debauchery; by a steady and unrelaxed punishment of all the ways of fraud and injustice; and by their administration, countenance, and example, reduce the irregularities of men’s manners into order, and bring sobriety, peaceableness, industry, and honesty into fashion. This is their proper business every-where; and for this they have a commission from God, both by the light of nature and revelation; and by this, removing the great counterpoise, which lies in strictness of life, and is so strong a bias, with the greatest part, against the true religion, they would cast the balance on that side. For if men were forced by the magistrate to live sober, honest and strict lives, whatever their religion were, would not the advantage be on the side of truth, when the gratifying of their lusts were not to be obtained by forsaking her? In men’s lives lies the main obstacle to right opinions in religion: and if you will not believe me, yet what a very rational man of the church of England says in the case [Dr. Bentley, in his sermon of the folly of atheism, p. 16.] will deserve to be remembered. “Did religion bestow heaven, without any forms and conditions, indifferently upon all; if the crown of life was hereditary, and free to good and bad, and not settled by covenant on the elect of God only, such as live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; I believe there would be no such thing as an infidel among us. And without controversy it is the way and means of attaining to heaven, that makes profane scoffers so willing to let go the expectation of it. It is not the articles of the creed, but their duty to God and their neighbour, that is such an inconsistent incredible legend. They will not practise the rules of religion, and therefore they cannot believe the ‘doctrines’ of it.” The ingenious author will pardon me the change of one word, which I doubt not but suits his opinion, though it did not so well that argument he was then on.
You grant the true religion has always light and strength to prevail; false religions have neither. Take away the satisfaction of men’s lusts, and which then, I pray, hath the advantage? Will men, against the light of their reason, do violence to their understandings, and forsake truth, and salvation too, gratis? You tell us here, “No religion but the true requires of men the difficult task of mortifying their lusts.” This being granted you, what service will this do you to prove the necessity of force to punish all dissenters in England? Do none of their religions require the mortifying of lusts as well as yours?
And now, let us consider your instance whereon you build so much, that we hear of it over and over again. For you tell us, “Idolatry prevailed, but yet not by the help of force, as has been sufficiently shown.” And again, “That truth left to shift for herself will not do well enough, as has been sufficiently shown.” What you have done to show this, is to be seen, where you tell us, “Within how few generations after the flood, the worship of false gods prevailed against the religion which Noah professed, and taught his children, (which was undoubtedly the true religion,) almost to the utter exclusion of it, (though that at first was the only religion in the world,) without any aid from force, or the assistance of the powers in being, for any thing we find in the history of those times, as we may reasonably believe, considering that it found an entrance into the world, and entertainment in it when it could have no such aid or assistance. Of which (besides the corruption of human nature) you suppose there can no other cause be assigned, or none more probable than this, that the powers then in being did not do what they might and ought to have done, towards the preventing or checking that horrible apostacy.” Here you tell us, that the “worship of false gods, within a very few generations after the flood, prevailed against the true religion, almost to the utter exclusion of it.” This you say indeed, but without any proofs, and unless that be showing, you have not, as you pretend, any way shown it. Out of what records, I beseech you, have you it, that the true religion was almost wholly extirpated out of the world, within a few generations after the flood? The scripture, the largest history we have of those times, says nothing of it; nor does, as I remember, mention any as guilty of idolatry, within two or three hundred years after the flood. In Canaan itself, I do not think that you can out of any credible history show, that there was any idolatry within ten or twelve generations after Noah; much less that it had so overspread the world, and extirpated the true religion, out of that part of it, where the scene lay of those actions recorded in the history of the Bible. In Abraham’s time, Melchisedec, who was king of Salem, was also the priest of the most high God. We read that God, with an immediate hand, punished miraculously, first mankind, at the confusion of Babel, and afterwards Sodom, and four other cities; but in neither of these places is there any the least mention of idolatry, by which they provoked God, and drew down vengeance on themselves. So that truly you have shown nothing at all; and what the scripture shows is against you. For besides, that it is plain by Melchisedec the king of Salem, and priest of the most high God, to whom Abraham paid tithes, that all the land of Canaan was not yet overspread with idolatry, though afterwards in the time of Joshua, by the forfeiture was therefore made of it to the Israelites, one may have reason to suspect it were more defiled with it than any part of the world; besides Salem, I say, he that reads the story of Abimelech, Gen. xx. xxi. xxvi. will have reason to think, that he also and his kingdom, though Philistines, were not then infected with idolatry.
You think they, and almost all mankind were idolaters, but you may be mistaken; and that which may serve to show it, is the example of Elijah the prophet, who was at least as infallible a guesser as you, and was as well instructed in the state and history of his own country and time, as you can be in the state of the whole world three or four thousand years ago. Elijah thought that idolatry had wholly extirpated the true religion out of Israel, and complains thus to God: “The children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword: and I, even I alone, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away,” 1 Kings xix. 10. And he is so fully persuaded of it, that he repeats it again, verse 14; and yet God tells him, that he had there yet seven thousand knees that had not bowed to Baal, seven thousand that were not idolaters; though this was in the reign of Ahab, a king zealous for idolatry; and in a kingdom set up in an idolatrous worship, which had continued the national religion, established and promoted by the continued succession of several idolatrous princes. And though the national religions soon after the flood were false, which you are far enough from proving; how does it thence follow, that the true religion was near extirpated? which it must needs quite have been, before St. Peter’s time, if there were so great reason to fear, as you tell us, that the true religion, without the assistance of force, “would in a much shorter time, than any one that does not well consider the matter would imagine, be most effectually extirpated throughout the world.” For above two thousand years after Noah’s time, St. Peter tells us, “that in every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted by him,” Acts x. 35. By which words, and by the occasion on which they were spoken, it is manifest, that in countries where for two thousand years together no force had been used for the support of Noah’s true religion, it was not yet wholly extirpated. But that you may not think it was so near, that there was but one left, only Cornelius, if you will look into Acts xvii. 4, you will find a great multitude of them at Thessalonica, “And of the devout Greeks a great multitude believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas.” And again, verse 17, more of them in Athens, a city wholly given to idolatry. For that those σε[Editor: illegible character]όμενοι which we translate devout, and whereof many are mentioned in the Acts, were gentiles, who worshipped the true God, and kept the precepts of Noah, Mr. Mede has abundantly proved. So that whatsoever you, “who have well considered the matter,” may imagine of the shortness of time, wherein Noah’s religion would be “effectually extirpated throughout the world,” without the assistance of force; we find it at Athens, at Philippi, at Corinth, amongst the Romans, in Antioch of Pisidia, in Thessalonica, above two thousand years after, and that not so near being extinguished, but that in some of those places the professors of it were numerous; at Thessalonica they are called a great multitude: at Antioch many: and how many of them were in other parts of the world, whereof there was no occasion to make mention in that short history of the Acts of the Apostles, who knows? If they answered, in other places, to what were found in these, as what reason is there to suppose they should not? I think we may imagine them to be as many, as there were effectually of the true religion christians in Europe, a little before the reformation; notwithstanding the assistance the christian religion had from authority, after the withdrawing of miracles.
But you have a salvo, for you write warily, and endeavour to save yourself on all hands; you say, “There is great reason to fear, that without God’s extraordinary providence, it would in a much shorter time, than any one, who does not well consider the matter, would imagine, be most effectually extirpated by it throughout the world.” It is without doubt the providence of God which governs the affairs both of the world and his church; and to that, whether you call it ordinary or extraordinary, you may trust the preservation of his church, without the use of such means, as he has no-where appointed or authorized. You fancy force necessary to preserve the true religion, and hence you conclude the magistrate authorized, without any farther commission from God, to use it, “if there be no other means left:” and therefore that must be used: if religion should be preserved without it, it is by the extraordinary providence of God; where extraordinary signifies nothing, but beginning the thing in question. The true religion has been preserved many ages, in the church, without force. Ay, say you, that was by the “extraordinary providence of God.” His providence, which over-rules all events, we easily grant it: but why extraordinary providence? because force was necessary to preserve it. And why was force necessary? because otherwise, without “extraordinary providence,” it cannot be preserved. In such circles, covered under good words, but misapplied, one might show you taking many a turn in your answer, if it were fit to waste other time to trace your wanderings. God has appointed preaching, teaching, persuasion, instruction, as a means to continue and propagate his true religion in the world; and if it were any-where preserved and propagated without that, we might call it his “extraordinary providence;” but the means he has appointed being used, we may conclude, that men have done their duties, and so may leave it to his providence, however we will call it, to preserve the little flock, which he bids not to fear, till the end of the world.
But let us return again to what you say, to make good this hypothesis of yours, That idolatry entered first into the world by the contrivance, and spread itself by the endeavours of private men, without the assistance of the magistrates, and those in power. To prove this, you tell us, “that it found entrance into the world, and entertainment in it, when it could have no such aid or assistance.” When was this, I beseech you, that idolatry found this entrance into the world? Under what king’s reign was it, that you are so positive it could have no such aid or assistance? If you had named the time, the thing, though of no great moment to you, had been sure. But now we may very justly question this bare assertion of yours. For since we find, as far back as we have any history of it, that the great men of the world were always forward to set up and promote idolatry and false religions; you ought to have given us some reason why, without authority from history, you affirm that idolatry, at its entrance into the world, had not the assistance from men in power, which it never failed of afterwards. Who they were that made Israel to sin, the scripture tells us. Their kings were so zealous promoters of idolatry, that there is scarce any one of them, that has not that brand left upon him in holy writ.
One of the first false religions, whose rise and way of propagating we have an account of in sacred history, was by an ambitious usurper, who, having rebelled against his master, with a false title set up a false religion, to secure his power and dominion. Why this might not have been done before Jeroboam’s days, and idols set up at other places, as well as at Dan and Bethel, to serve political ends, will need some other proof, than barely saying, it could not be so at first. The devil, unless much more ignorant, was not less busy in those days to engage princes in his favour; and to weave religion into affairs of state; the better to introduce his worship, and support idolatry, by accommodating it to the ambition, vanity, or superstition, of men in power: and therefore you may as well say, that the corruption of human nature, as that the assistance of the powers in being, did not, in those days, help forward false religions; because your reading has furnished you with no particular mention of it out of history. But you need but say, that the “worship of false gods prevailed without any aid from force, or the assistance of the powers in being, for any thing we find in the history of those times,” and then you have sufficiently shown, what? even that you have just nothing to show for your assertion.
But whatever that any thing is, which you find in history, you may meet with men, whose reading yet I will not compare with yours, who think they have found in history, that princes and those in power, first corrupted the true religion, by setting up the images and symbols of their predecessors in their temples, which by their influence, and the ready obedience of the priests they appointed, were in succession of time proposed to the people as objects of their worship. Thus they think they find in history that Isis, queen of Egypt, with her counsellor Thoth, instituted the funeral rites of king Osiris, by the honour done to the sacred ox. They think they find also in history, that the same Thoth, who was also king of Egypt in his turn, invented the figures of the first Egyptian gods, Saturn, Dagon, Jupiter Hammon, and the rest: that is, the figures of their statues or idols: and that he instituted the worship and sacrifices of these gods; and his institutions were so well assisted by those in authority, and observed by the priests they set up, that the worship of those gods soon became the religion of that, and a pattern to other nations. And here we may perhaps, with good reason, place the rise and original of idolatry after the flood, there being nothing of this kind more ancient. So ready was the ambition, vanity, or superstition of princes, to introduce their predecessors into the divine worship of the people; to secure to themselves the greater veneration from their subjects, as descended from the gods; or to erect such a worship, and such a priesthood, as might awe the blinded and seduced people into that obedience they desired. Thus Ham, by the authority of his successors, the rulers of Egypt, is first brought for the honour of his name and memory into their temples; and never left, till he is erected into a god, and made Jupiter Hammon, &c. which fashion took afterwards with the princes of other countries.
Was not the great god of the eastern nations, Baal, or Jupiter Belus, one of the first kings of Assyria? And which, I pray, is the more likely, that courts, by their instruments the priests, should thus advance the honour of kings amongst the people for the ends of ambition and power; or the people find out these refined ways of doing it, and introduce them into courts for the enslaving themselves? What idolatry does your history tell you of among the Greeks, before Phoroneus and Danaus kings of the Argives, and Cecrops and Theseus kings of Attica, and Cadmus king of Thebes, introduced it? An art of rule it is probable they borrowed from the Egyptians. So that if you had not vouched the silence of history, without consulting it, you would possibly have found, that in the first ages princes, by their influence and aid; by the help and artifice of the priests they employed; their fables of their gods, their mysteries and oracles, and all the assistance they could give it by their authority; did so much against the truth before direct force was grown into fashion, and appeared openly; that there would be little reason of putting the guard and propagation of the true religion into their hands now, and arming them with force to promote it.
That this was the original of idolatry in the world, and that it was borrowed by other magistrates from the Egyptians, is farther evident, in that this worship was settled in Egypt, and grown the national religion there, before the gods of Greece and several other idolatrous countries were born. For though they took their pattern of deifying their deceased princes from the Egyptians, and kept, as near as they could, to the number and genealogies of the Egyptian gods; yet they took the names still of some great men of their own, which they accommodated to the mythology of the Egyptians. Thus, by the assistance of the powers in being, idolatry entered into the world after the flood. Whereof, if there were not so clear footsteps in history, why yet should you not imagine princes and magistrates, engaged in false religions, as ready to employ their power for the maintaining and promoting their false religions in those days, as we find them now? And therefore what you say in the next words, of the entrance of idolatry into the world, and the entertainment it found in it, will not pass for so very evident, without proof; though you tell us ever so confidently, that you “suppose, besides the corruption of human nature, there can no other cause be assigned of it, or none more probable than this, that the powers then in being did not what they might and ought to have done,” i.e. if you mean it to your purpose, use force your way, to make men consider; or to, “impose creeds and ways of worship, towards the preventing that horrible apostasy.”
I grant that the entrance and growth of idolatry might be owing to the negligence of the powers in being, in that they did not do what they might and ought to have done, in using their authority to suppress the enormities of men’s manners, and correct the irregularity of their lives. But this was not all the assistance they gave to that horrible apostasy: they were, as far as history gives us any light, the promoters of it, and leaders in it; and did what they ought not to have done, by setting up false religions, and using their authority to establish them, to serve their corrupt and ambitious designs.
National religions, established by authority, and enforced by the powers in being, we hear of every-where, as far back as we have any account of the rise and growth of the religions of the world. Show me any place, within those few generations, wherein you say the apostasy prevailed after the flood, where the magistrates being of the true religion, the subjects by the liberty of a toleration were led into false religions; and then you will produce something against liberty of conscience. But to talk of that great apostasy, as wholly owing to toleration, when you cannot produce one instance of toleration then in the world, is to say what you please.
That the majority of mankind were then, and always have been, by the corruption and pravity of human nature, led away, and kept from embracing the true religion, is past doubt. But whether this be owing to toleration in matters of religion, is the question. David describes an horrible corruption and apostasy in his time, so as to say, “There is none that doeth good, no not one,” Psal. xiv. and yet I do not think you will say a toleration then in that kingdom was the cause of it. If the greatest part cannot be ill without a toleration, I am afraid you must be fain to find out a toleration in every country, and in all ages of the world. For I think it is true, of all times and places, that the broad way that leadeth to destruction, has had most travellers. I would be glad to know where it was that force your way applied, i. e. with punishments only upon nonconformists; ever prevailed to bring the greater number into the narrow way, that leads into life; which our Saviour tells us, there are few that find.
The corruption of human nature, you say, opposes the true religion. I grant it you. There was also, say you, an horrible apostasy after the flood; let this also be granted you: and yet from hence it will not follow, that the true religion cannot subsist and prevail in the world without the assistance of force, your way applied; till you have shown, that the false religions, which were the inventions of men, grew up under toleration, and not by the encouragement and assistance of the powers in being.
How near soever therefore the true religion was to be extinguished within a few generations after the flood; (which whether more in danger then, than in most ages since, is more than you can show:) this will be still the question, whether the liberty of toleration, or the authority of the powers in being, contributed most to it? And whether there can be no other, nor more probable cause assigned, than the want of force your way applied, I shall leave the reader to judge. This I am sure, whatever causes any one else shall assign, are as well proved as yours, if they offer them only as their conjectures.
Not but that I think men could run into false and foolish ways of worship without the instigation or assistance of human authority; but the powers of the world, as far as we have any history, having been always forward enough (true religion as little serving princes as private men’s lusts) to take up wrong religions, and as forward to employ their authority to impose the religion, good or bad, which they had once taken up; I can see no reason why the not using of force, by the princes of the world, should be assigned as the sole, or so much as the most probable cause of propagating the false religions of the world, or extirpating the true; or how you can so positively say, idolatry prevailed without any assistance from the powers in being.
Since therefore history leads us to the magistrates, as the authors and promoters of idolatry in the world; to which we may suppose their not suppressing of vice, joined as another cause of the spreading of false religions; you were best consider, whether you can still suppose there can no other cause be assigned of the prevailing of the worship of false gods, but the magistrate’s not interposing his authority in matters of religion. For that that cannot with any probability at all be assigned as any cause, I shall give you this farther reason. You impute the prevailing of false religions to “the corruption and pravity of human nature, left to itself, unbridled by authority.” Now if force your way applied, does not at all bridle the corruption and pravity of human nature; the magistrate’s not so interposing his authority, cannot be assigned as any cause at all of that apostasy. So that let that apostasy have what rise, and spread as far as you please, it will not make one jot for force, your way applied; or show that that can receive any assistance your way from authority. For your use of authority and force, being only to bring men to an outward conformity to the national religion, it leaves the corruption and pravity of human nature as unbridled as before, as I have shown elsewhere.
You tell us, “that it is not true, that the true religion will prevail by its own light and strength, without miracles, or the assistance of the powers in being, because of the corruption of human nature.” And for this you give us an instance in the apostasy presently after the flood. And you tell us, that without the assistance of force it would presently be extirpated out of the world. If the corruption of human nature be so universal, and so strong, that, without the help of force the true religion is too weak to stand it, and cannot at all prevail, without miracles or force; how come men ever to be converted, in countries where the national religion is false? If you say by extraordinary providence; what that amounts to has been shown. If you say this corruption is so potent in all men, as to oppose and prevail against the gospel, not assisted by force or miracles; that is not true. If in most men; so it is still, even where force is used. For I desire you to name me a country, where the greatest part are really and truly christians, such as you confidently believe Christ, at the last day, will own to be so. In England having, as you do, excluded all the dissenters; (or else why would you have them punished, to bring them to embrace the true religion?) you must, I fear, allow yourself a great latitude in thinking, if you think that the corruption of human nature does not so far prevail, even amongst conformists, as to make the ignorance, and lives, of great numbers amongst them, such as suits not at all with the spirit of true christianity. How great their ignorance may be, in the more spiritual and elevated parts of the christian religion, may be guessed, by what the reverend bishop, before cited, says of it, in reference to a rite of the church, the most easy and obvious to be instructed in, and understood. His words are, “In the common management of that holy rite [confirmation] it is but too visible, that of those multitudes that crowd to it, the far greater part come merely as if they were to receive the bishop’s blessing without any sense of the vow made by them, and of their renewing their baptismal engagements in it,” Past. Care, p. 189. And if Origen were now alive, might he not find many in our church, to whom these words of his might be applied, “Whose faith signifies only thus much, and goes no farther than this, viz. that they come duly to the church, and bow their heads to the priest,” &c.? Hom. in Jos. IX. For it seems it was then the fashion to bow to the priest as it is now to the altar. If therefore you say force is necessary, because without it no men will so consider as to embrace the true religion, for the salvation of their souls; that I think is manifestly false. If you say it is necessary to use such means as will make the greatest part so embrace it; you must use some other means than force, your way applied; for that does not so far work on the majority. If you say it is necessary, because possibly it may work on some, which bare preaching and persuasion will not; I answer, if possibly your moderate punishments may work on some, and therefore they are necessary; it is as possible, that greater punishments may work on others, and therefore they are necessary, and so on to the utmost severities.
That the corruption of human nature is every-where spread, and that it works powerfully in the children of disobedience, “who receive not the love of the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness;” and therefore God gives them up to believe a lye; nobody, I think, will deny. But that this corruption of human nature works equally in all men, or in all ages; and so, that God will, or ever did, give up all men, not restrained by force, your way modified and applied, to believe a lye, (as all false religions are,) that I yet see no reason to grant. Nor will this instance of Noah’s religion, you so much rely on, ever persuade, till you have proved, that from those eight men which brought the true religion with them into the new world, there were not eight thousand, or eighty thousand, which retained it in the world in the worst times of the apostasy. And secondly, till you have proved that the false religions of the world prevailed, without any aid from force, or the assistance of the powers in being. And, thirdly, that the decay of the true religion was for want of force, your moderate force; neither of which you have at all proved, as I think it manifest.
One consideration more touching Noah, and his religion, give me leave to suggest, and that is, if force were so necessary for the support of true religion, as you make it; it is strange, God, who gave him precepts about other things should never reveal this to him, nor any-body else, that I know. To this you, who have confessed the “Scripture not to have given the magistrate this commission,” must say, that it is plain enough in the commission that he has from the law of nature, and so needed not any revelation, to instruct the magistrate in the right he has to use force. I confess the magistrates have used force in matters of religion, and have been as confidently and constantly put upon it by their priests, as if they had as clear a commission from heaven, as St. Peter had to preach the gospel to the gentiles. But yet it is plain, notwithstanding that commission from the law of nature, there needs some farther instruction from revelation; since it does not appear, that they have found out the right use of force, such as the true religion requires for its preservation; and though you have, after several thousands of years, at last discovered it; yet it is very imperfectly; you not being able to tell, if a law were now to be made against those who have not considered as they ought, what are those moderate penalties which are to be employed against them; though yet without that all the rest signifies nothing. But however doubtful you are in this, I am glad to find you so direct, in putting men’s rejecting the true religion, upon the difficulty they have to “mortify their lusts, which the true religion requires of them,” and I desire you to remember it in other places, where I have occasion to mind you of it.
To conclude, That we may see the great advantage your cause will receive from that instance, you so much rely on, of the apostasy after the flood, I shall oppose another to it. You say, that “idolatry prevailed in the world in a few generations, almost to the utter exclusion of the true religion, without any aid from force, or assistance of the powers in being, by reason of toleration.” And therefore you think there is great reason to fear, that “the true religion would by toleration, quickly be most effectually extirpated throughout the world:” And I say, that after christianity was received for the religion of the empire, and whilst political laws, and force, interposed in it, an horrible apostasy prevailed to almost the utter exclusion of true religion, and a general introducing of idolatry. And therefore I think there is great reason to fear more harm than good, from the use of force in religion.
This I think as good an argument against, as yours for force, and something better; since what you build on is only presumed by you, not proved from history: whereas the matter of fact here is well known; nor will you deny it, when you consider the state of religion in christendom under the assistance of that force, which you tell us succeeded and supplied the place of withdrawn miracles, which in your opinion are so necessary in the absence of force, that you make that the reason of their continuance; and tell us they “were continued till force could be had; not so much for evincing the truth of the christian religion, as to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance.” So that whenever force failed, there according to your hypothesis, are miracles to supply its want; for, without one of them, the true religion, if we may believe you, will soon be utterly extirpated; and what force, in the absence of miracles, produced in christendom several ages before the reformation, is so well known, that it will be hard to find what service your way of arguing will do any but the Romish religion.
But to take your argument in its full latitude, you say, but you say it without book, that there was once a toleration in the world to the almost utter extirpation of the true religion; and I say to you, that as far as records authorize either opinion, we may say force has been always used in matters of religion, to the great prejudice of the true religion, and the professors of it. And there not being an age wherein you can show me, upon a fair trial of an established national toleration, that the true religion was extirpated, or endangered, so much as you pretend by it: (whereas there is no age, whereof we have sufficient history to judge of this matter, wherein it will not be easy to find that the true religion, and its followers, suffered by force:) you will in vain endeavour, by instances, to prove the ill effects, or uselessness of toleration, such as the author proposed; which I challenge you to show me was ever set up in the world, or that the true religion suffered by it; and it is to the want of it, and the restraints and disadvantages the true religion has laboured under, its so little spreading in the world will justly be imputed: until, from better experiments, you have something to say against it.
Our Saviour has promised that he will build his church on this fundamental truth, that he is “Christ the son of God; so that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it:” and this I believe, though you tell us the true religion is not able to subsist without the assistance of force, when miracles cease. I do not remember that our Saviour any-where promises any other assistance but that of his Spirit; or gives his little flock any encouragement to expect much countenance or help from the great men of the world; or the coercive power of the magistrates; nor any-where authorizes them to use it for the support of his church; “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble,” 1 Cor. i. 26, is the style of the gospel; and I believe will be found to belong to all ages of the church militant, past and to come, as well as to the first: for God, as St. Paul tells us, has chosen the “foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the mighty;” and this not only till miracles ceased, but ever since. “To be hated for Christ’s name sake, and by much tribulation to enter into the kingdom of heaven,” has been the general and constant lot of the people of God, as well as it seems to be the current strain of the New Testament; which promises nothing of secular power or greatness; says nothing of “kings being nursing fathers, or queens nursing mothers:” which prophecy, whatever meaning it have, it is like our Saviour would not have omitted to support his church with some hopes and assurance of such assistance, if it were to have any accomplishment before his second coming; when Israel shall come in again, and with the gentiles make up the fulness of his glorious kingdom. But the tenour of the New Testament is, “All that will live godly in Jesus Christ, shall suffer persecution,” 2 Tim. iii. 12.
In your “Argument considered,” you tell us, “that no man can fail of finding the way of salvation that seeks it as he ought.” In my answer, I take notice to you, that the places of scripture you cite to prove it, point out this way of seeking as we ought, to be a good life: as particularly that of St. John, “If any one will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God:” upon which I use these words: “So that these places, if they prove what you cite them for, that no man can fail of finding the way of salvation, who seeks it as he ought; they do also prove, that a good life is the only way to seek as we ought; and that therefore the magistrates, if they would put men upon seeking the way of salvation as they ought, should by their laws and penalties force them to a good life; a good conversation being the surest and readiest way to a right understanding. And that if magistrates will severely and impartially set themselves against vice, in whomsoever it is found, true religion will be spread wider—than ever hitherto it has been by the imposition of creeds and ceremonies.” To this you reply, “Whether the magistrates setting themselves severely and impartially against what you suppose I call vice; or the imposition of sound creeds and decent ceremonies; does more conduce to the spreading the true religion, and rendering it fruitful in the lives of its professors, we need not examine; you confess, you think both together do best; and this, you think, is as much as needs be said to that paragraph.” If it had been put to you, whether a good living, or a good prebend, would more conduce to the enlarging your fortune, I think it would be allowed you as no improper or unlikely answer, what you say here, “I think both together would do best;” but here the case is otherwise: your thinking determines not the point: and other people of equal authority may, and I will answer for it, do think otherwise: but because I pretend to no authority, I will give you a reason, why your thinking is insufficient. You tell us, that “force is not a fit means, where it is not necessary as well as useful;” and you prove it to be necessary, because there is no other means left. Now if the severity of the magistrate, against what I call vice, will, as you will not deny, promote a good life, and that be the right way to seek the truths of religion; here is another means besides imposing of creeds and ceremonies, to promote the true religion; and therefore your argument for its necessity, because of no other means left, being gone, you cannot say “both together are best,” when one of them being not necessary, is therefore, by your own confession, not to be used.
I having said, That if such an indirect and at a distance usefulness were sufficient to justify the use of force, the magistrate might make his subjects eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven: you reply, that you “suppose I will not say castration is necessary, because you hope I acknowledge, that marriage, and that grace which God denies to none, who seriously ask it, are sufficient for that purpose.” And I hope you acknowledge, that preaching, admonitions, and instructions, and that grace which God denies to none, who seriously ask it, are sufficient for salvation. So that by this answer of yours, there being no more necessity of force to make men of the true religion, than there is of castration to make men chaste; it will still remain that the magistrate, when he thinks fit, may, upon your principles, as well castrate men to make them chaste, as use force to make them embrace the truth that must save them.
If castration be not necessary, “because marriage and the grace of God are sufficient,” without it: nor will force be necessary, because preaching and the grace of God are sufficient without it; and this, I think, by your own rule, where you tell us, “Where there are many useful means, and some of them are sufficient without the rest, there is no necessity of using them all.” So that you must either quit your necessity of force, or take in castration too: which, however it might not go down with the untractable and desperately perverse and obstinate people in these western countries, yet is a doctrine, you may hope, may meet with a better reception in the Ottoman empire, and recommend you to some of my mahometans.
To my saying, “If what we are apt to think useful, were thence to be concluded so, we might be in danger to be obliged to believe the pretended miracles of the church of Rome, by your way of reasoning; unless we will say, that which without impiety cannot be said, that the wise and benign disposer and governor of all things does not use all useful means for promoting his own honour in the world, and the good of souls.” This, I think, will conclude as much for miracles as for force: you reply, “you think it will not; for in the place I intend, you speak not of useful, but of competent, i. e. sufficient means. Now competent or sufficient means are necessary; but you think no man will say that all useful means are so: and therefore though, as you affirm, it cannot be said without impiety, that the wise and benign disposer and governor of all things has not furnished mankind with competent means for the promoting his own honour in the world, and the good of souls; yet it is very agreeable with piety, and with truth too, to say that he does not now use all useful means: because as none of his attributes obliges him to use more than sufficient means; so he may use sufficient means, without using all useful means. For where there are many useful means, and some of them are sufficient without the rest, there is no necessity of them all. So that from God’s not using miracles now, to promote the true religion, I cannot conclude that he does not think them useful now, but only that he does not think them necessary. And therefore, though what we are apt to think useful, were thence to be concluded so; yet if whatever is useful, be not likewise to be concluded necessary, there is no reason to fear that we should be obliged to believe the miracles pretended to by the church of Rome. For if miracles be not now necessary, there is no inconvenience in thinking the miracles pretended to by the church of Rome to be but pretended miracles.” To which I answer, Put it how you will, for competent means, or useful means, it will conclude for miracles still as much as for force. Your words are these, “If such a degree of outward force, as has been mentioned, be really of great and necessary use for the advancing these ends, as taking the world as we find it, you say, you think it appears to be; then it must be acknowledged there is a right somewhere to use it for the advancing those ends; unless we will say, what without impiety cannot be said, that the wise and benign disposer of all things has not furnished mankind with competent means for the promoting his own honour in the world, and the good of souls.” What, I beseech you, now is the sum of this argument, but this, “force is of great and necessary use; therefore the wise and benign disposer of all things, who will not leave mankind unfurnished (which it would be impiety to say) of competent means for the promoting his honour in the world, and the good of souls, has given somewhere a right to use it?”
Let us try it now, whether it will not do as well for miracles. Miracles “are of great and necessary use, as great and necessary at least as force; therefore the wise and benign disposer of all things, who will not leave mankind unfurnished, which it would be impiety to say, of competent means for the promoting his honour in the world, and the good of souls,” has given somewhere a power of miracles. I ask you, when I in the second letter used your own words, applied to miracles instead of force, would they not conclude then as well for miracles as for force? For you must remember there was not then in all your scheme one word of miracles to supply the place of force. Force alone was mentioned, force alone was necessary, all was laid on force. Nor was it easy to divine, that miracles should be taken in, to mend the defects of your hypothesis; which in your answer to me you now have done, and I easily allow it, without holding you to any thing you have said, and shall always do so. For seeking truth, and not triumph, as you frequently suggest, I shall always take your hypothesis as you please to reform it, and either embrace it, or show you why I do not.
Let us see, therefore, whether this argument will do any better now your scheme is mended, and you make force or miracles necessary. If force or miracles are of “great and necessary use for the promoting true religion, and the salvation of souls; then it must be acknowledged, that there is somewhere a right to use the one, or a power to do the other, for the advancing those ends; unless we will say, what without impiety cannot be said, that the wise and benign disposer and governor of all things has not furnished mankind with competent means for the promoting his own honour, and the good of souls.” From whence it will follow, if your argument be good, that where men have not a right to use force; there still we are to expect miracles, unless we will say, &c. Now where the magistrates are not of the true religion, there by this part of your scheme there is a right in nobody to use force: for if there were, what need of miracles, as you tell us there was, in the first ages of christianity, to supply that want? Since the magistrates, who were of false religions then, were furnished with as much right, if that were enough, as they are now. So that where the magistrates are of false religions, there you must, upon your principles, affirm miracles are still to supply the want of force; “unless you will say, what without impiety cannot be said, that the wise and benign disposer and governor of all things hath not furnished mankind with competent means for the promoting his own honour in the world, and the good of souls.” Now how far this will favour the pretences of the church of Rome to miracles in the East and West Indies, and other parts not under popish governments, you were best consider. This is evident, that in all countries where the true religion is not received for the religion of the state, and supported and encouraged by the laws of it; you must allow miracles to be as necessary now, as ever they were any-where in the world, for the supply of the want of force, before the magistrates were christians. And then what advantage your doctrine gives to the church of Rome, is very visible. For they, like you, supposing theirs the only true religion, are supplied by you with this argument for it, viz. “That the true religion will not prevail by its own light and strength, without the assistance of miracles or authority. Which are the competent means, which, without impiety, it cannot be said, that the wise and benign disposer and governor of all things has not furnished mankind with.” From whence they will not think it hard to draw this consequence, that therefore the wise and benign governor of all things has continued in their church the power of miracles; (which yours does not so much as pretend to;) to supply the want of the magistrate’s assistance, where that cannot be had to make the true religion prevail. And if a papist should press you with this argument, I would gladly know what you would reply to him.
Though this be enough to make good what I said, yet since I seek truth, more than my own justification, let us examine a little what it is you here say of “competent means. Competent means, you say, are necessary, but you think no man will say, all useful means are so.” If you think you speak plain, clear, determined sense, when you used this good English word competent, I pity you: if you did it with skill, I send you to my pagans and mahometans. But this safe way of talking, though it be not altogether so clear, yet it so often occurs in you, that it is hard to judge, whether it be art or nature. Now pray what do you mean by “mankind’s being furnished with competent means?” If it be such means as many are prevailed on by to embrace the truth that must save them, preaching is a competent means, for by preaching alone, without force, many are prevailed on, and become truly christians; and then your force, by your own confession, is not necessary. If by competent, you understand such means, by which all men are prevailed on, or the majority, to become truly christians, I fear your force is no competent means.
Which way ever you put it, you must acknowledge mankind to be destitute of competent means, or your moderate force not to be that necessary competent means: since whatever right the magistrates may have had any-where to use it, wherever it has not been used, let the cause be what it will that kept this means from being used, there the people have been destitute of that means.
But you will think there is little reason to complain of obscurity, you having abundantly explained what you mean by competent, in saying competent, i. e. sufficient means. So that we have nothing to do but to find out what you mean by sufficient: and the meaning of that word, in your use of it, you happily give us in these following, “What does any man mean by sufficient evidence, but such as will certainly win assent whereever it is duly considered.” Apply this to your means, and then tell me, whether your force be such competent, i. e. sufficient means, that it certainly produced embracing the truth, wherever it was duly, i. e. your way applied; if it did not, it is plain it is not your competent sufficient means, and so the world, without any such imputation to the divine wisdom and benignity, might be without it. If you will say it was sufficient, and did produce that end wherever it was applied, I desire you then to tell me whether mankind hath been always furnished with competent means. You have it now in your choice, either to talk impiously, or renounce force, and disown it to be competent means; one of the two I do not see how, by your own argument, you can avoid.
But to lay by your competent and sufficient means, and to ease you of the uncertainty and difficulty you will be in to determine what is so, in respect of mankind; I suppose it will be little less “impious to say, that the wise and benign disposer and governor hath not furnished mankind with necessary means, as to say he hath not furnished them with competent means.” Now, sir, if your moderate penalties, and nothing else, be, since the withdrawing of miracles, this necessary means, what will be left you to say, by your argument, of the wisdom and benignity of God in all those countries, where moderate penalties are not made use of? where men are not furnished with this means to bring them to the true religion? For unless you can say, that your moderate penalties have been constantly made use of in the world for the support and encouragement of the true religion, and to bring men to it, ever since the withdrawing of miracles; you must confess that not only some countries (which yet were enough against you,) but mankind in general, have been unfurnished of the “necessary means for the promoting the honour of God in the world, and the salvation of men’s souls.” This argument out of your own mouth, were there no other, is sufficient to show the weakness and unreasonableness of your scheme; and I hope the due consideration of it will make you cautious another time, how you intitle the wisdom and benignity of God to the support of what you once fancy to be of great and necessary use.
I having thereupon said, “Let us not therefore be more wise than our Maker in that stupendous and supernatural work of our salvation. The scripture,” &c.
You reply, “Though the work of our salvation be, as I justly call it, stupendous and supernatural; yet you suppose no sober man doubts, but it both admits and ordinarily requires the use of natural and human means, in subordination to that grace which works it.”
If you had taken notice of these immediately following words of mine, “The scripture that reveals it to us, contains all that we can know or do, in order to it; and where that is silent, it is presumption in us to direct;” you would not have thought what you here say a sufficient answer: for though God does make use of natural and human means in subordination to grace, yet it is not for man to make use of any means, in subordination to his grace, which God has not appointed; out of a conceit it may do some service indirectly and at a distance.
The whole covenant and work of grace is the contrivance of God’s infinite wisdom. What it is, and by what means he will dispense his grace, is known to us by revelation only; which is so little suited to human wisdom, that the apostle calls it “the foolishness of preaching.” In the scripture is contained all that revelation, and all things necessary for that work, all the means of grace: there God has declared all that he would have done for the salvation of souls; and if he had thought force necessary to be joined with the foolishness of preaching, no doubt but he would have somewhere or other have revealed it, and not left it to the wisdom of man; which, how disproportioned and opposite it is to the ways and wisdom of God in the gospel, and how unfit to be trusted in the business of salvation, you may see, I Cor. i. from verse 17 to the end.
“The work of grace admits and ordinarily requires the use of natural and human means.” I deny it not: let us now hear your inference: “Therefore till I have shown that no penal laws, that can be made, can do any service towards the salvation of men’s souls in subordination to God’s grace, or that God has forbidden the magistrate” to use force, for so you ought to put it, but you rather choose, according to your ordinary way, to use general and doubtful words; and therefore you say, “to serve him in that great work with the authority which he has given him; there will be no occasion for the caution I have given,” not to be wiser than our Maker in that stupendous work of our salvation. By which way of arguing, any thing that I cannot show, cannot possibly, cannot indirectly and at a distance, or by accident, do any service, or God has not forbidden, may be made use of for the salvation of souls. I suppose you mean expressly forbidden, for else I might think these words [“Who has required this at your hands?”] sufficient prohibition of it. The sum of your argument is, “what cannot be showed not to do any service, may be used as a human means in subordination to grace, in the work of salvation.” To which I reply, That what may, through the grace of God, sometimes do some service, cannot, without a further warrant from revelation than such usefulness, be required, or made use of as a subordinate means to grace. For if so, then auricular confession, penance, pilgrimages, processions, &c. which nobody can show do not ever do any service, at least indirectly and at a distance, towards the salvation of souls, may all be justified.
It is not enough that it cannot be shown that it cannot do any service to justify its usefulness: for what is there that may not, indirectly and at a distance, or by accident, do some service? To show that it is a human means, that God has no-where appointed, in subordination to grace, in the supernatural work of salvation, is enough to prove it an unwarrantable boldness to use it: and much more so in the present case of force, which, if put into the magistrate’s hands with power to use it in matters of religion, will do more harm than good, as I think I have sufficiently shown.
And therefore, since, according to you, the magistrate’s commission to use force for the salvation of souls, is from the law of nature; which commission reaches to none, since the revelation of the gospel, but christian magistrates; it is more natural to conclude, were there nothing else in the case but the silence of scripture, that the christian magistrate has no such power, because he has no such commission any-where in the gospel, wherein all things are appointed necessary to salvation; than that there was so clear a commission given to all magistrates by the law of nature, that it is necessary to show a prohibition from revelation, if one will deny christian magistrates to have that power. Since the commission of the law of nature, to magistrates, being only that general one, of doing good according to the best of their judgments: if that extends to the use of force in matters of religion, it will abundantly more oppose than promote the true religion, if force in the case has any efficacy at all, and so do more harm than good: which though it shows not, what you here demand, that it cannot do any service towards the salvation of men’s souls, for that cannot be shown of any thing; yet it shows the disservice, it does, is so much more, than any service can be expected from it, that it can never be proved, that God has given power to magistrates to use it by the commission they have of doing good, from the law of nature.
But whilst you tell me, “Till I have shown that force and penalties cannot do any service towards the salvation of souls, there will be no occasion for the caution I gave you,” not to be wiser than our Maker in that stupendous and supernatural work; you have forgot your own confession, that it is not enough to authorize the use of force, that it may be useful, if it be not also necessary. And when you can prove such means necessary, which though it cannot be shown, never upon any occasion to do any service; yet may be, and is abundantly shown to do little service, and so uncertainly, that if it be used, it will, if it has any efficacy, do more harm than good: if you can, I say, prove such a means as that necessary, I think I may yield you the cause. But the use of it has so much certain harm, and so little and uncertain good in it, that it can never be supposed included or intended in the general commission to the magistrates, of doing good; which may serve for an answer to your next paragraph.
Only let me take notice, that you here make this commission of the law of nature to extend the use of force, only to “induce those, who would not otherwise, to hear what may and ought to move them to embrace the truth.” They have heard all that is offered to move them to embrace, i. e. believe, but are not moved: is the magistrate by the law of nature commissioned to punish them for what is not in their power? for faith is the gift of God, and not in a man’s power: or is the magistrate commissioned by the law of nature, which impowers him in general, only to do them good? Is he, I say, commissioned to make them lye, and profess that which they do not believe? And is this for their good? If he punish them till they embrace, i. e. believe, he punishes them for what is not in their power; if till they embrace, i. e. barely profess, he punishes them for what is not for their good: to neither of which can he be commissioned by the law of nature.
To my saying, “Till you can show us a commission in scripture, it will be fit for us to obey that precept of the gospel, Mark iv. 24, which bids us take heed what we hear.” You reply, That this “you suppose is only intended for the vulgar reader; for it ought to be rendered, attend to what you hear;” which you prove out of Grotius. What if I or my readers are not so learned, as to understand either the Greek original, or Grotius’s Latin comment? Or if we did, are we to be blamed for understanding the scripture in that sense, which the national, i. e. as you say, the true religion authorizes, and which you tell us would be a fault in us if we did not believe?
For if, as you suppose, there be sufficient provision made in England for the instructing all men in the truth; we cannot then but take the words in this sense, it being that which the public authority has given them; for if we are not to follow the sense as it is given us in the translation authorized by our governors, and used in our worship established by law; but must seek it elsewhere; it will be hard to find, how there is any other provision made for instructing men in the sense of the scripture, which is the truth that must save them, but to leave them to their own inquiry and judgment, and to themselves, to take whom they think best for interpreters and expounders of scripture, and to quit that of the true church, which she has given in her translation. This is the liberty you take to differ from the true church, when you think fit, and it will serve your purpose. She says, “Take heed what you hear;” but you say, the true sense is, “Attend to what you hear.” Methinks you should not be at such variance with dissenters; for, after all, nothing is so like a nonconformist as a conformist. Though it be certainly every one’s right to understand the scripture in that sense which appears truest to him, yet I do not see how you, upon your principles, can depart from that which the church of England has given it: but you, I find, when you think fit, take that liberty; and so much liberty as that, would, I think, satisfy all the dissenters in England.
As to your other place of scripture; if St. Paul, as it seems to me, in that tenth to the Romans, where showing that the gentiles were provided with all things necessary to salvation as well as the jews; and that by having men sent to them to preach the gospel, that provision was made; what you say in the two next paragraphs will show us that you understand, that the Greek word ἀχοὴ, signifies both hearing and report; but does no more answer the force of those two verses, against you, than if you had spared all you said with your Greek criticism. The words of St. Paul are these: “How then shall they call on him on whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Rom. x. 14, 15, 17. In this deduction of the means of propagating the gospel, we may well suppose St. Paul would have put in miracles or penalties, if, as you say, one of them had been necessary. But whether or no every reader will think St. Paul set down in that place all necessary means, I know not; but this, I am confident, he will think, that the New Testament does; and then I ask, Whether there be in it one word of force to be used to bring men to be christians, or to hearken to the good tidings of salvation offered in the gospel?
To my asking, “What if God, for reasons best known to himself, would not have men compelled?” You answer, “If he would not have them compelled, now miracles are ceased, as far as moderate penalties compel, (otherwise you are not concerned in the demand,) he would have told us so.” Concerning miracles supplying the want of force, I shall need to say nothing more here: but to your answer, that “God would have told us so;” I shall in few words state the matter to you. You first suppose force necessary to compel men to hear; and thereupon suppose the magistrate invested with a power to compel them to hear; and from thence peremptorily declare, that if God would not have force used, he would have told us so. You suppose also, that, it must be only moderate force. Now may we not ask one, that is so far of the council of the Almighty, that he can positively say what he would or would not have; to tell us, whether it be not as probable that God, who knows the temper of man that he has made, who knows how apt he is not to spare any degree of force when he believes he has a commission to compel men to do any thing in their power; and who knows also how prone man is to think it reasonable to do so: whether, I say, it is not as probable that God, if he would have the magistrate to use none but moderate force to compel men to hear, would also have told us so? Fathers are not more apt than magistrates to strain their power beyond what is convenient for the education of their children; and yet it has pleased God to tell them in the New Testament, of this moderation, by a precept more than once repeated.
To my demanding, “What if God would have men left to their freedom in this point, if they will hear, or if they will forbear; will you constrain them? Thus we are sure he did with his own people,” &c. You answer, “But those words, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, which we find thrice used in the prophet Ezekiel, are nothing at all to my purpose. For by hearing there, no man understands the bare giving an ear to what was to be preached; nor yet the considering it only; but the complying with it, and obeying it; according to the paraphrase which Grotius gives of the words.” Methinks, for this once, you might have allowed me to have hit upon something to the purpose, you having denied me it in so many other places: if it were but for pity; and one other reason; which is, that all you have to say against it is, that “by hearing there, no man understands the bare giving an ear to what was to be preached; nor yet the considering it; but the complying with it, and obeying it.” If I misremember not, your hypothesis pretends the use of force to be not barely to make men give an ear, nor yet to consider; but to make them consider as they ought; i. e. so as not to reject; and therefore, though this text out of Ezekiel be nothing to the purpose against bare giving an ear; yet, if you please, let it stand as if it were to the purpose against your hypothesis, till you can find some other answer to it.
If you will give yourself the pains to turn to Acts xxviii. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, you will read these words, “And some believed the things that were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet, unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, hearing, ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing, ye shall see, and not perceive. For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the gentiles, and that they will hear it.”
If one should come now, and out of your treatise, called “The Argument of the Letter concerning Toleration considered and answered,” reason thus, “It is evident that these jews have not sought the truth in this matter, with that application of mind, and freedom of judgment, which was requisite; whilst they suffered their lusts and passions to sit in judgment, and manage the inquiry. The impressions of education, the reverence and admiration of persons, worldly respects, and the like incompetent motives, have determined them. Now if this be the case; if these men are averse to a due consideration of things, where they are most concerned to use it; what means is there left (besides the grace of God) to reduce them out of the wrong way they are in, but to lay thorns and briars in it?” Would you not think this a good argument to show the necessity of using force and penalties upon these men in the Acts, who refused to be brought to embrace the true religion upon the preaching of St. Paul? “For what other means was left, what human method could be used to bring them to make a wiser and more rational choice, but laying such penalties upon them as might balance the weight of such prejudices, which inclined them to prefer a false way before the true?” Tell me, I beseech you, would you not, had you been a christian magistrate in those days, have thought yourself obliged to try, by force, “to overbalance the weight of those prejudices which inclined them to prefer a false way to the true?” For there was no other human means left; and if that be not enough to prove the necessity of using it, you have no proof of any necessity of force at all.
If you would have laid penalties upon them, I ask you, what if God, for reasons best known to himself, thought it not necessary to use any other human means but preaching and persuasion? You have a ready answer, there is no other human means but force, and some other human means besides preaching is necessary, i. e. in your opinion: and is it not fit your authority should carry it? For as to miracles, whether you think fit to rank them amongst human means or no; or whether or no there were any showed to these unbelieving jews, to supply the want of force; I guess, in this case, you will not be much helped, whichever you suppose: though to one unbiassed, who reads that chapter, it will, I imagine, appear most probable that St. Paul, when he thus parted with them, had done no miracles amongst them.
But you have, at the close of the paragraph before us, provided a salvo for all, in telling us, “However the penalties you defend, are not such as can any way be pretended to take away men’s freedom in this point.” The question is, whether there be a necessity of using other human means but preaching, for the bringing men to embrace the truth that must save them; and whether force be it? God himself seems, in the places quoted, and others, to teach us, that he would have left men to their freedom from any constraint of force in that point; and you answer, “The penalties you defend are not such as can any ways be pretended to take away men’s freedom in this point.” Tell us what you mean by these words of yours, “take away men’s freedom in this point;” and then apply it. I think it pretty hard to use penalties and force to any man, without taking away his freedom from penalties and force. Farther, the penalties you think necessary, if we may believe you yourself, are to “be such as may balance the weight of those prejudices, which incline men to prefer a false way before a true:” whether these be such as you will defend, is another question. This, I think, is to be made plain, that you must go beyond the lower degrees of force, and moderate penalties, to balance those prejudices.
To my saying, “That the method of the gospel is to pray and beseech, and that if God had thought it necessary to have men punished to make them give ear, he could have called magistrates to be spreaders of the gospel, as well as poor fishermen; or Paul, a persecutor; who yet wanted not power to punish Ananias and Sapphira, and the incestuous Corinthian.” You reply, “Though it be the method of the gospel, for the ministers of it to pray and beseech men; yet it appears from my own words here, both that punishments may be sometimes necessary; and that punishing, and that even by those who are to pray and beseech, is consistent with that method.” I fear, sir, you so greedily lay hold upon any examples of punishment, when on any account they come in your way: that you give yourself not liberty to consider whether they are for your purpose or no; or else you would scarce infer, as you do from my words, that, in your case, “punishments may be sometimes necessary.” Ananias and Sapphira were punished: “therefore it appears, say you, that punishments may be sometimes necessary.” For what, I beseech you? For the only end, you say, punishments are useful in religion, i. e. to make men consider. So that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead: for what end? To make them consider. If you had given yourself the leisure to have reflected on this, and the other instance of the incestuous Corinthian; it is possible you would have found neither of them to have served very well to show punishment necessary to bring men to embrace the true religion; for both these were punishments laid on those who had already embraced the true religion, and were in the communion of the true church: and so can only show, if you will infer any thing concerning the necessity of punishments from them, that punishments may be sometimes necessary for those who are in the communion of the true church. And of that you may make your advantage.
As to your other inferences from my words, viz. “That punishing, and that even by those who are, as ambassadors, to pray and beseech; is consistent with that method;” when they can do it as the apostles did, by the immediate direction and assistance of the spirit of God, I shall easily allow it to be consistent with the method of the gospel. If that will not content you, it is plain, you have an itch to be handling the secular sword; and since Christ has not given you the power you desire, you would be executing the magistrate’s pretended commission from the law of nature. One thing more let me remind you of, and that is, that if, from the punishments of Ananias and Sapphira, and the incestuous Corinthian, you can infer a necessity of punishment to make men consider; it will follow that there was a necessity of punishment to make men consider, notwithstanding miracles; which cannot therefore be supposed to supply the want of punishments.
To my asking, “What if God, foreseeing this force would be in the hands of men, as passionate, as humoursome, as liable to prejudice and errour, as the rest of their brethren, did not think it a proper means to bring men into the right way?” You reply, “But if there be any thing of an argument in this, it proves that there ought to be no civil government in the world; and so proving too much, proves nothing at all.” This you say; but you being one of those mortals who is liable to error as well as your brethren, you cannot expect it should be received for infallible truth, till you have proved it; and that you will never do, till you can show, that there is as absolute a necessity of force in the magistrate’s hands for the salvation of souls, as there is of force in the magistrate’s hand for the preservation of civil society; and next, till you have proved that force, in the hands of men, as passionate and humoursome; or liable to prejudice and errour as their brethren: would contribute as much to the bringing men, and keeping them in the right way to salvation, as it does to the support of civil society, and the keeping men at peace in it.
Where men cannot live together without mutual injuries, not to be avoided without force, reason has taught them to seek a remedy in government; which always places power somewhere in the society to restrain and punish such injuries; which power, whether placed in the community itself, or some chosen by the community to govern it, must still be in the hands of men; and where, as in societies of civilized and settled nations, the form of the government places this power out of the community itself, it is unavoidable, that out of men, such as they are, some should be made magistrates, and have coercive power of force put into their hands, to govern and direct the society for the public good; without which force, so placed in the hands of men, there could be no civil society; nor the ends for which it is instituted, to any degree, attained. And thus government is the will of God.
It is the will of God also, that men should be saved; but to this, it is not necessary that force or coactive power should be put into men’s hands; because God can and hath provided other means to bring men to salvation: to which, you indeed suppose, but can never prove force necessary.
The passions, humours, liableness to prejudices and errours, common to magistrates with other men, do not render force in their hands so dangerous and unuseful to the ends of society, which is the public peace, as to the ends of religion, which is the salvation of men’s souls. For though men of all ranks could be content to have their own humours, passions, and prejudices satisfied; yet when they come to make laws, which are to direct their force in civil matters, they are driven to oppose their laws to the humours, passions, and prejudices of men in general, whereby their own come to be restrained: for if law-makers, in making of laws, did not direct them against the irregular humours, prejudices, and passions of men, which are apt to mislead them; if they did not endeavour, with their best judgment, to bring men from their humours and passions, to the obedience and practice of right reason; the society could not subsist; and so they themselves would be in danger to lose their station in it, and be exposed to the unrestrained humours, passions, and violence of others. And hence it comes, that be men as humoursome, passionate, and prejudiced, as they will, they are still by their own interest obliged to make use of their best skill, and with their most unprejudiced and sedatest thoughts, take care of the government, and endeavour to preserve the commonwealth; and therefore, notwithstanding their humours and passions, their liableness to errour and prejudice; they do provide pretty well for the support of society, and the power in their hands is of use to the maintenance of it.
But in matters of religion it is quite otherwise: you had told us, about the latter end of your “Argument,” p. 22, how liable men were in choosing their religion to be misled by humour, passion, and prejudice; and therefore it was not fit that in a business of such concernment they should be left to themselves: and hence, in this matter of religion, you would have them subjected to the coactive power of the magistrate. But this contrivance is visibly of no advantage to the true religion, nor can serve at all to secure men from a wrong choice. For the magistrates, by their humours, prejudices, and passions, which they are born to like other men, being as liable, and likely to be misled in the choice of their religion, as any of their brethren, as constant experience hath always shown; what advantage could it be to mankind, for the salvation of their souls, that the magistrates of the world should have power to use force to bring men to that religion which they, each of them, by whatsoever humour, passion, or prejudice influenced, had chosen to themselves as the true? For whatsoever you did, I think with reverence we may say, that God foresaw, that whatever commission one magistrate had by the law of nature, all magistrates had: and that commission, if there were any such, could be only to use their coactive power to bring men to the religion they believed to be true; whether it were really the true or no; and therefore I shall, without taking away government out of the world, or so much as questioning it, still think this a reasonable question: “What if God, foreseeing this force would be in the hands of men, as passionate, as humoursome, as liable to prejudice and errour, as the rest of their brethren; did not think it a proper means, in such hands, to bring men into the right way?” And that it needs a better answer than you have given to it: and therefore you might have spared the pains you have taken in this paragraph, to prove that the magistrate’s being liable as much as other men to humour, prejudice, passion, and errour, makes not force, in his hands, wholly unserviceable to the administration of civil government; which is what nobody denies: and you would have better employed it to prove, that if the magistrate’s being as liable to passion, humour, prejudice, and errour, as other men, made force, in his hands, improper to bring men to the true religion; this would take away government out of the world: which is a consequence, I think, I may deny.
To which let me now add, what if God foresaw, that if force, of any kind or degree whatsoever, were allowed in behalf of truth, it would be used by erring, passionate, prejudiced men, to the restraint and ruin of truth; as constant experience in all ages has shown; and therefore commanded that the tares should be suffered to grow with the wheat, till the harvest; when the infallible judge shall sever them. That parable of our Saviour’s plainly tells us, if force were once permitted, even in favour of the true religion, what mischief it was like to do in the misapplication of it, by forward, busy, mistaken men; and therefore he wholly forbid it; and yet, I hope, this does not take away civil government out of the world.
To my demanding, “What if there be other means?” and saying, “Then yours ceases to be necessary upon that account, that there is no other means left; for the grace of God is another means.” You answer, That “though the grace of God is another means, yet it is none of the means of which you were speaking in the place I refer to; which any one, who reads that paragraph, will find to be only human means.” In that place you were endeavouring to prove force necessary to bring men to the true religion, as appears; and there having dilated for four or five pages together upon the “carelessness, prejudices, passions, lusts, impressions of education, worldly respects,” and other the like causes, which you think mislead and keep men from the true religion; you at last conclude force necessary to bring men to it, because admonitions and intreaties not prevailing, there is no other means left. To this, grace being instanced in as another means, you tell us here you mean no other human means left. So that to prove force necessary, you must prove that God would have other human means used besides praying, preaching, persuasion, and instruction; and for this, you will need to bring a plain direction from revelation for your moderate punishments; unless you will pretend to know, by your own natural wisdom, what means God has made necessary; without which, those whom he hath foreknown and predestinated, and will in his good time call, Romans viii. 29, by such means as he thinks fit, according to his purpose; cannot be brought into the way of salvation. Perhaps you have some warrant we know not of, to enter thus boldly into the counsel of God; without which, in another man, a modest Christian would be apt to think it presumption.
You say, there are many who are not prevailed on by prayers, intreaties, and exhortations, to embrace the true religion. What then is to be done? “Some degrees of force are necessary” to be used? Why? Because there is no other human means left. Many are not prevailed on by your moderate force; What then is to be done? Greater degrees of force are necessary, because there is no other human means left. No, say you, God has made moderate force necessary, because there is no other human means left where preaching and intreaties will not prevail; but he has not made greater degrees of force necessary, because there is no other human means left where moderate force will not prevail. So that your rule changing, where the reason continues the same, we must conclude you have some way of judging concerning the purposes and ways of the Almighty in the work of salvation, which every one understands not. You would not else, upon so slight ground as you have yet produced for it, which is nothing but your own imagination, make force, your moderate force so necessary, that you bring in question the wisdom and bounty of the Disposer and Governor of all things, as if he “had not furnished mankind with competent means for the promoting his own honour in the world, and the good of souls,” if your moderate force were wanting to bring them to the true religion; whereas you know, that most of the nations of the world always were destitute of this human means to bring them to the true religion. And I imagine you would be put to it, to name me one now, that is furnished with it.
Besides, if you please to remember what you say in the next words: “And therefore, though the grace of God be both a proper and sufficient means, and such as can work by itself, and without which neither penalties nor any other means can do any thing;” and by consequence can make any means effectual: how can you say any human means, in this supernatural work, unless what God has declared to be so, is necessary? Preaching, and instruction, and exhortation, are human means that he has appointed: these, therefore, men may and ought to use; they have a commission from God, and may expect his blessing and the assistance of his grace; but to suppose, when they are used and prevail not, that force is necessary, because these are not sufficient, is to exclude grace, and ascribe this work to human means; as in effect you do, when you call force competent and sufficient means, as you have done. For if bare preaching, by the assistance of grace, can and will certainly prevail; and moderate penalties, as you confess, or any kind of force, without the assistance of grace, can do nothing; how can you say, that force is in any case a more necessary, or a more competent, or sufficient means, than bare preaching and instruction? unless you can show us, that God hath promised the cooperation and assistance of his grace to force, and not to preaching? The contrary whereof has more of appearance. Preaching and persuasion are not competent means, you say; Why? because, without the co-operation of grace, they can do nothing: but by the assistance of grace they can prevail even without force. Force too, without grace, you acknowledge can do nothing: but, joined with preaching and grace, it can prevail. Why then, I pray, is it a more competent means than preaching; or why necessary, where preaching prevails not? since it can do nothing without that, which, if joined to preaching, can make preaching effectual without it.
You go on, “Yet it may be true however, that when admonitions and intreaties fail, there is no human means left but penalties, to bring prejudiced persons to hear and consider what may convince them of their errours, and discover the truth to them: and then penalties will be necessary in respect to that end, as an human means.” Let it be true or not true, that when treaties, &c. fail, there is no human means left but penalties: your inference I deny, that then penalties will be necessary as an human means. For I ask you, since you lay so much stress to so little purpose on human means, is some human means necessary? if that be your meaning, you have human means in the case, viz. admonitions, intreaties; being instant in season and out of season. I ask you again, Are penalties necessary because the end could not be obtained by preaching, without them? that you cannot say, for grace co-operating with preaching will prevail: are penalties then necessary, as sure to produce that end? nor so are they necessary; for without the assistance of grace, you confess, they can do nothing. So that penalties, neither as human means, nor as any means, are at all necessary. And now you may understand what I intend, by saying that the grace of God is the only means, which is the inquiry of your next paragraph, viz. this I intend, that it is the only efficacious means, without which all human means is ineffectual. You tell me, If by it “I intend that it does either always, or ordinarily exclude all other means; you see no ground I have to say it.” And I see no ground you have to think I intended, that it excludes any other means that God in his goodness will be pleased to make use of; but this I intend by it, and this, I think, I have ground to say, that it excludes all the human means of force from being necessary, or so much as lawful to be used; unless God hath required it by some more authentic declaration than your bare saying or imagining it is necessary. And you must have more than human confidence, if you continue to mix this poor and human contrivance of yours with the wisdom and counsel of God in the work of salvation; since he having declared the means and methods to be used for the saving men’s souls, has in the revelation of the Gospel, by your own confession, prescribed no such human means.
To my saying, “God alone can open the ear that it may hear, and open the heart that it may understand:” You reply, “But, by your favour, this does not prove that he makes use of no means in doing of it.” Nor needs it: it is enough for me, if it proves, that if preaching and instruction do not open the ear, or the heart, it is not necessary any one should try his strength with a hammer or an auger. Man is not in this business (where no means can be effectual, without the assistance and co-operation of his grace) to make use of any means which God hath not prescribed. You here set up a way of propagating Christianity according to your fancy, and tell us how you would have the work of the gospel carried on: you commission the magistrate by the argument of congruity: you find an efficacy in punishment towards the converting of men; you limit the force to be used to low and moderate degrees; and to countries where sufficient means of instruction are provided by the law, and where the magistrate’s religion is the true, i. e. where it pleases you; and all this without any direction from God, or any authority so much as pretended from the Gospel; and without its being truly for the propagation of Christianity, but only so much of it as you think fit, and what else you are pleased to join to it. Why else, in the religion you are content to have established by law, and promoted by penalties, is any thing more or less required, than is expressly contained in the New Testament?
This indeed is well suited to any one, who would have a power of punishing those that differ from his opinion, and would have men compelled to conformity in England. But in this your fair contrivance, what becomes of the rest of mankind, left to wander in darkness out of this Goshen, who neither have, nor (according to your scheme) can have, your necessary means of force and penalties to bring them to embrace the truth that must save them? For if that be necessary, they cannot without a miracle, either prince or people, be wrought on without it. If a papist at Rome, a lutheran at Stockholm, or a calvinist at Geneva, should argue thus for his church, would you not say, that such as these looked like the thoughts of a poor prejudiced mind? But they may mistake, and you cannot; they may be prejudiced, but you cannot. Say too, if you please, you are confident you are in the right, but they cannot be confident they are so. This I am sure, God’s thoughts are not as man’s thoughts, nor his ways as man’s ways, Isaiah lv. 8. And it may abate any one’s confidence of the necessity or use of punishments, for not receiving our Saviour, or his religion, when those who had the power of miracles were told, that “they knew not what manner of spirit they were of,” when they would have commanded down fire from heaven, Luke ix. 55. But you do well to take care to have the church you are of supported by force and penalties, whatever becomes of the propagation of the gospel, or the salvation of men’s souls, in other parts of the world, as not coming within your hypothesis.
In your next paragraph, to prove that God does bless the use of force, you say you suppose I mean, by the words you there cite, that “the magistrate has no ground to hope that God will bless any penalties that he may use to bring men to hear and consider the doctrine of salvation; or (which is the same thing) that God does not (at least not ordinarily) afford his grace and assistance to them who are brought by such penalties to hear and consider that doctrine, to enable them to hear and consider it as they ought, i. e. so as to be moved heartily to embrace it.” You tell me, “If this be my meaning, then to let me see that it is not true, you shall only desire me to tell you, whether they that are so brought to hear and consider, are bound to believe the gospel or not? If I say they are; (and you suppose I dare not say otherwise;) then it evidently follows, that God does afford them that grace which is requisite to enable them to believe the gospel: because without that grace it is impossible for them to believe it; and they cannot be bound to believe what it is impossible for them to believe.” To which, I shall only answer, that by this irrefragable argument it is evident, that wherever due penalties have been used, for those you tell us are sufficient and competent means, to make men hear and consider as they ought: there all men were brought to believe the gospel: which, whether you will resolve with yourself to be true or false, will be to me indifferent, and on either hand equally advantage your cause. Had you appealed to experience for the success of the use of force by the magistrate, your argument had not shown half so much depth of theological learning: but the mischief is, that if you will not make it all of a piece scholastic; and by arguing that all whom the magistrates use force upon, “are brought to consider as they ought, and to all that are so wrought upon God does afford that grace which is requisite;” and so roundly conclude for a greater success of force, to make men believe the gospel, than ever our Saviour and the apostles had by their preaching and miracles: for that wrought not on all; your unanswerable argument comes to nothing. And in truth, as you have in this paragraph ordered the matter, by being too sparing of your abstract metaphysical reasoning, and employing it by halves, we are fain, after all, to come to the dull way of experience: and must be forced to count, as the parson does his communicants, by his Easter-book, how many those are so brought to hear and consider, to know how far God blesses penalties. Indeed, were it to be measured by conforming, the Easter-book would be a good register to determine it. But since you put it upon believing, that will be of somewhat a harder disquisition.
To my saying, (upon that place out of Isaiah, vi. 10, “Make the heart of this people fat, lest they understand, and convert, and be healed.) will all the force you can use be a means to make such people hear and understand, and be converted?” You reply, “No, sir, it will not. But what then? What if God declares that he will not heal those who have long resisted all his ordinary methods, and made themselves, morally speaking, incurable by them? (which is the utmost, you say, I can make of the words I quote.) Will it follow from thence that no good can be done by penalties upon others, who are not so far gone in wickedness and obstinacy? If it will not, as it is evident it will not, to what purpose is this said?” It is said to this purpose, viz. to show that force ought not to be used at all. Those ordinary methods which, resisted, are punished with a reprobate sense; are the ordinary methods of instruction, without force: as is evident from this place and many others, particularly Romans i. From whence I argue; that what state soever you will suppose men in, either as past or not yet come to the day of grace; nobody can be justified in using force to work upon them. For till the ordinary methods of instruction and persuasion can do no more, force is not necessary; for you cannot say, what other means is there left, and so by your own rule, not lawful. For till God hath pronounced this sentence here, on any one, “make his heart fat,” &c. the ordinary means of instruction and persuasion may, by the assistance of God’s grace, prevail. And when this sentence is once passed upon them, and “God will not afford them his grace to heal them;” (I take it, you confess in this place;) I am sure you must confess, your force to be wholly useless, and so utterly impertinent; unless that can be pertinent to be used, which you own can do nothing. So that whether it will follow or no, from men’s being given up to a reprobate mind, for having resisted the preaching of salvation, “that no good can be done by penalties upon others;” this will follow, that not knowing whether preaching may not, by the grace of God, yet work upon them; or whether the day of grace be past with them; neither you nor any body else can say that force is necessary; and if it be not necessary, you yourself tell us it is not to be used.
In your next paragraph, you complain of me, as representing your argument, as you say, “I commonly do, as if you allowed any magistrate, of what religion soever, to lay penalties upon all that dissent from him.” Unhappy magistrates that have not your allowance! But to console them, I imagine they will find that they are all under the same obligation, one as another, to propagate the religion they believe to be the true; whether you allow it them or no. For to go no farther than the first words of your argument, which you complain I have misrepresented, and which you tell me runs thus, “When men fly from the means of right information;” I ask you here, who shall be judge of those means of right information; the magistrate who joins force with them to make them be hearkened to, or no? When you have answered that, you will have resolved a great part of the question, what magistrates are to use force?
But that you may not complain again of my misrepresenting, I must beg my readers leave to set down your argument at large in your own words, and all you say upon it: “When men fly from the means of a right information, and will not so much as consider how reasonable it is thoroughly and impartially to examine a religion, which they embraced upon such inducements as ought to have no sway at all in the matter, and therefore with little or no examination of the proper grounds of it; what human method can be used to bring them to act like men in an affair of such consequence, and to make a wiser and more rational choice, but that of laying such penalties upon them as may balance the weight of those prejudices, which inclined them to prefer a false way before the true?” &c. Now this argument, you tell me, I pretend to retort in this manner: “and I say, I see no other means left, (taking the world as we now find it, wherein the magistrate never lays penalties for matters of religion upon those of his own church, nor is it to be expected they ever should,) to make men of the national church, any-where, thoroughly and impartially examine a religion, which they embraced upon such inducements as ought to have no sway at all in the matter, and therefore with little or no examination of the proper grounds of it; and therefore I conclude the use of force by dissenters upon conformists necessary. I appeal to all the world, whether this be not as just and natural a conclusion as yours?” And you say you are “well content the world should judge. And when it determines, that there is the same reason to say, that to bring those who conform to the national church to examine their religion, it is necessary for dissenters (who cannot possibly have the coactive power, because the national church has that on its side, and cannot be national without it) to use force upon conformists; as there is to say, that where the national church is the true church, there to bring dissenters (as I call them) to examine their religion, it is necessary for the magistrate (who has the coactive power) to lay moderate penalties upon them for dissenting: you say, when the world determines thus, you will never pretend any more to judge what is reasonable, in any case whatsoever. For you doubt not but you may safely presume, that the world will easily admit these two things. 1. That though it be very fit and desirable, that all that are of the true religion, should understand the true grounds of it; that so they may be the better able both to defend themselves against the assaults of seducers, and to reduce such as are out of the way; yet this is not strictly necessary to their salvation: because experience shows (as far as men are capable to judge of such matters) that many do heartily believe and profess the true religion, and conscientiously practice the duties of it, who yet do not understand the true grounds upon which it challenges their belief: and no man doubts, but whosoever does so believe, profess, and practise the true religion, if he perseveres to the end, shall certainly attain salvation by it. 2. That how much soever it concerns those who reject the true religion (whom I may call dissenters if I please) to examine and consider why they do so; and how needful soever penalties may be to bring them to this; it is, however, utterly unreasonable, that such as have not the coactive power should take upon them to inflict penalties for that purpose: because, as that is not consistent with order and government, which cannot stand, where private persons are permitted to usurp the coactive power; so there is nothing more manifest, than that the prejudice which is done to religion, and to the interest of men’s souls, by destroying government, does infinitely outweigh any good that can possibly be done by that which destroys it. And whoever admits and considers these things, you say, you are very secure will be far enough from admitting, that there is any parity of reason in the cases we here speak of, or that mine is as just and natural a conclusion as yours.”
The sum of what you say, amounts to thus much: men being apt to take up their religion, upon inducements that ought to have no sway at all in the matter, and so, with little or no examination of the grounds of it; therefore penalties are necessary to be laid on them, to make them thoroughly and impartially examine. But yet penalties need not be laid on conformists, in England, to make them examine; because they, and you, believe yours to be the true religion: though it must be laid on presbyterians and independents, &c. to make them examine, though they believe theirs to be the true religion, because you believe it not to be so. But you give another very substantial reason, why penalties cannot be laid on conformists, to make them examine; and that is, “because the national church has the coactive power on its side,” and therefore they have no need of penalties to make them examine. The national church of France, too, has the coactive power on its side, and therefore, they who are of it have no need of penalties, any of them, to make them examine.
If your argument be good, that men take up their religions upon wrong inducements, and without due examination of the proper grounds of it; and that therefore they have need of penalties to be laid on them to make them examine, as they ought, the grounds of their religion; you must confess there are some in the church of England, to whom penalties are necessary: unless you will affirm, that all, who are in the communion of the church of England, have so examined: but that I think you will not do, however you endeavour to palliate their ignorance and negligence in this matter. There being therefore a need of penalties, I say, it is as necessary that presbyterians should lay penalties on the conformists of the church of England to make them examine, as for the church of England to lay penalties on the presbyterians to make them do so: for they each equally believe their religion to be true; and we suppose, on both sides, there are those who have not duly examined. But here you think you have a sure advantage, by saying it is not consistent with the “order of government, and so it is impracticable.” I easily grant it. But is yours more practicable? When you can make your way practicable, for the end for which you pretend it necessary, viz. to make “all, who have taken up their religion upon such inducements as ought to have no sway at all in the matter, to examine thoroughly and impartially the proper grounds of it;” when, I say, you can show your way practicable, to this end, you will have cleared it of one main objection, and convinced the world that yours is a more just and natural conclusion than mine.
If your cause were capable of any other defence, I suppose we should not have had so long and elaborate an answer as you have given us in this paragraph, which at last bottoms only on these two things: 1. That there are in you, or those of your church, some approaches towards infallibility in your belief that your religion is true, which is not to be allowed those of other churches, in the belief of theirs. 2. That it is enough if any one does but conform to it, and remain in the communion of your church: or else one would think there should be as much need for conformists too of your church to examine the grounds of their religion, as for any others.
“To understand the true grounds of the true religion is not, you say, strictly necessary to salvation.” Yet, I think, you will not deny but it is as strictly necessary to salvation, as it is to conform to a national church in all those things it imposes: some whereof are not necessary to salvation; some whereof are acknowledged by all to be indifferent; and some whereof, to some conscientious men, who thereupon decline communion, appear unsound or unlawful. If not being strictly necessary to salvation, will excuse from penalties in the one case, why will it not in the other? And now I shall excuse the world from determining my conclusion to be as natural as yours: for it is pity so reasonable a disputant as you are, should take so desperate a resolution as “never to pretend any more to judge what is reasonable in any case whatsoever.”
Whether you have proved that force, used by the magistrate, be a means prescribed by God to procure the gift of faith from him, which is all you say in the next paragraph, others must judge.
In that following, you quote these words of mine: “If all the means God has appointed to make men hear and consider, be exhortation in season and out of season, &c. together with prayer for them, and the example of meekness, and a good life; this is all ought to be done, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.” To which you thus reply, “But if these be not all the means God has appointed, then these things are not all that ought to be done.” But if I ask you, How do you know that this is not all God has appointed? you have nothing to answer, to bring it to your present purpose, but that you know it by the light of nature. For all you say is but this, that by the light of nature you know force to be useful and necessary to bring men into the way of salvation; by the light of nature you know the magistrate has a commission to use force to that purpose; and by the same light of nature, you know that miracles were appointed to supply the want of force till the magistrates were christians. I imagine, sir, you would scarce have thought this a reasonable answer, if you had taken notice of my words in the same paragraph immediately preceding those you have cited; which, that you may see the scope of my argument, I will here trouble you again; and they are these: “It is not for you and me, out of an imagination that they may be useful, or are necessary, to prescribe means in the great and mysterious work of salvation, other than what God himself has directed. God has appointed force as useful and necessary, and therefore it is to be used; is a way of arguing becoming the ignorance and humility of poor creatures. But I think force useful or necessary, and therefore it is to be used; has methinks a little too much presumption in it. You ask what means else is there left? None, say I, to be used by man, but what God himself has directed in the scriptures, wherein are contained all the means and methods of salvation. Faith is the gift of God. And we are not to use any other means to procure this gift to any one, but what God himself has prescribed. If he has there appointed, that any should be forced to hear those who tell them they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right; and that they should be punished by the magistrate, if they did not; it will be past doubt, it is to be made use of. But till that can be done, it will be in vain to say, what other means is there left.”
My argument here lies plainly in this: That all the means and methods of salvation are contained in the scripture: which either you were to have denied, or else have shown where it was in scripture, that force was appointed. But instead of that, you tell us, that God appointed miracles in the beginning of the gospel. And though, when these ceased, the means I mention were all the ministers had left, yet this proves not that the magistrate was not to use force. Your words are, As to the first spreaders of the gospel, it has already been shown, that God appointed other means besides these for them to use, to induce men to hear and consider: and though when those extraordinary means ceased, these means which I mention (viz. preaching, &c.) were the only means left to the ministers of the gospel; yet that is no proof that the magistrate, when he became christian, could not lawfully use such means as his station enabled him to use, when they became needful.” I said, in express words, “no means was to be used by man, but what God himself has directed in the scripture.” And you answer, this is no proof that the christian magistrate may not use force. Perhaps when they so peremptorily interpose their decisive decrees in the business of salvation, establish religions by laws and penalties, with what articles, creeds, ceremonies, and discipline, they think fit; (for this we see done almost in all countries;) when they force men to hear those, and those only, who by their authority are chosen and allowed to tell men they have mistaken their way, and offer to show them the right; it may be thought necessary to prove magistrates to be men. If that needs no proof, what I said needs some other answer.
But let us examine a little the parts of what you here say: “As to the first spreaders of the gospel, say you, it has already been shown, that God appointed other means besides exhortation in season and out of season, prayer, and the example of a good life; for them to use to induce men to hear and consider.” What were those other means? To that you answer readily, miracles. Ergo, men are directed now by scripture to use miracles. Or else what answer do you make to my argument, which I gave you in these words, “No means is to be used by man, but what God himself has directed in the scriptures, wherein are contained all the means and methods of salvation?” No, they cannot use miracles now as a means, say you, for they have them not. What then? Therefore the magistrate, who has it, must use force to supply the want of those extraordinary means which are now ceased. This indeed is an inference of yours, but not of the scriptures. Does the scripture say any thing of this? Not a word; not so much as the least intimation towards it in all the New Testament. Be it then true or false, that force is a means to be used by men in the absence of miracles; this is yet no answer to my argument: this is no proof that it is appointed in scripture; which is the thing my argument turns on.
Revelation then fails you. Let us see now how reason and common sense, that common light of nature, will help you out.
You then reason thus: bare preaching, &c. will not prevail on men to hear and consider; and therefore some other means is necessary to make them do so. Pray what do you mean by men, or any other of those indefinite terms, you have always used in this case? Is it that bare preaching will prevail on no men? Does reason (under which I comprehend experience too, and all the ways of knowledge contra-distinguished to revelation) discover any such thing to you? I imagine you will not say that; or pretend that nobody was ever brought, by preaching or persuasion, to hear and consider the truths of the gospel, (mean by considering what you will,) without other means used by those who applied themselves to the care of converting them. To such therefore as may be brought to hear and consider, without other means, you will not say that other means are necessary.
In the next place, therefore, When you say bare preaching will not prevail on men, do you mean that it will not prevail on all men, and therefore it is necessary that men should use other means? Neither, I think, will reason authorize you to draw such a consequence: because neither will preaching alone, nor preaching assisted with force, or any other means man can use, prevail on all men. And therefore no other means can be pretended to be necessary to be used by man, to do what men by those means never did, nor ever can do.
That some men shall be saved, and not all, is, I think, past question to all that are christians: and those that shall be saved, it is plain, are the elect. If you think not this plain enough in scripture, I desire you to turn to the seventeenth of the XXXIX articles of the church of England, where you will read these words: “Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he has chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God’s purpose by his spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.” Now pray tell me whether bare preaching will not prevail on all the elect to hear and consider without other means to be used by men. If you say it will; the necessity of your other means, I think, is out of doors. If you say it will not; I desire you to tell me how you do know it without revelation? And whether by your own reason you can tell us, whether any, and what means God has made necessary besides what he has appointed in scripture for the calling his elect? When you can do this, we shall think you no ordinary divine, nor a stranger to the secret counsels of the infinitely wise God. But till then your mixing your opinion with the divine wisdom in the great work of salvation, and, from arguments of congruity, taking upon you to declare the necessity or usefulness of means, which God has not expressly directed, for the gathering in of his elect; will scarce authorize the magistrate to use his coactive power for the edifying and completing the body of Christ, which is his church. “Those whom God hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, before the foundations of the world, are called according to God’s purpose, by his spirit working in due season, and through grace obey the calling;” say you in your article. The outward means that God has appointed for this, is preaching. Ay, but preaching is not enough; that is, is not sufficient means, say you. And I ask you how you know it; since the scripture, which declares all that we can know in this matter, says nothing of the insufficiency of it, or of the necessity of any other? Nor can there be a necessity of any other means than what God expressly appoints, in a matter wherein no means can operate effectually, without the assistance of his grace; and where the assistance of his grace can make any outward means, he appoints effectual.
I must desire you here to take notice, that by preaching which I use for shortness, I mean exhortation, instruction, intreaty, praying for; and, in fine, any outward means of persuasion in the power of man, separate from force.
You tell us here, “as to the first spreaders of the gospel, God appointed other means, viz. miracles, for them to use to induce men to hear and consider.” If by the first spreaders of the gospel, you mean the twelve apostles and seventy disciples, whom Christ himself sent to preach the gospel; they indeed were appointed, by his immediate command, to show miracles by the power which he had bestowed upon them. But will you say, all the ministers and preachers of the gospel had such a commission, and such a power, all along from the apostles time; and that they, every one, did actually show miracles to induce men to hear and consider, quite down till christianity was supported by the law of the empire? Unless you could show this, though you could produce some well-attested miracles, done by some men in every age till that time; yet it would not be sufficient to prove that miracles were appointed to be constantly used to induce men to hear and consider; and so by your reasoning to supply the want of force, till that necessary assistance could be had from the authority of the magistrate become christian. For since it is what you build upon, that men will not hear and consider upon bare preaching: and I think you will forwardly enough agree, that till christianity was made the religion of the empire, there were those every-where that heard the preachers of it so little, or so little considered what they said, that they rejected the gospel; and that therefore miracles or force are necessary means to make men hear and consider; you must own that those who preached without the power of miracles, or the coactive power of the magistrate accompanying them, were unfurnished of competent and sufficient means to make men hear and consider; and so to bring them to the true religion. If you will say the miracles done by others were enough to accompany their preaching to make it be heard and considered; the preaching of the ministers at this day is so accompanied, and so will need no assistance of force from the magistrate. If the report of miracles done by one minister of the gospel some time before, and in another place, were sufficient to make the preaching of ten or a thousand others be heard and considered; why is it not so now? For the credibility and attestation of the report is all that is of moment, when miracles done by others in other places are the argument that prevails. But this, I fear, will not serve your turn in the business of penalties; and, whatever might satisfy you in the case of miracles, I doubt you would not think the salvation of souls sufficiently provided for, if the report of the force of penalties, used some time since on one side of the Tweed, were all that should assist the preachers of the true religion on the other, to make men hear and consider.
St. Paul, in his epistle to Titus, instructs him what he, and the presbyters he should ordain in the cities of Crete, were to do for the propagating of the gospel, and bringing men heartily to embrace it. His directions are, that they should be “blameless, not rioters, not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine or filthy lucre, not strikers, not unruly; lovers of hospitality, and of good men; sober, just, holy, temperate; to be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince gainsayers; in all things to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing uncorruptedness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil to say of you. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke, with all authority. Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions. A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject.” To repay you the favour of your Greek, it is παραιτ[Editor: illegible character]; which, if I may take your liberty of receding from our translation, I would read “avoid.”
The Cretans, by the account St. Paul gives of them, were a people that would require all the means that were needful to prevail with any strangers to the gospel to hear and consider. But yet we find nothing directed for the support and propagation of the gospel in this island, but preaching, exhortation, reproof, &c. with the example of a good life. In all this epistle, writ on purpose to instruct the preachers of the gospel, in the means they were to use among the Cretans, for their conversion, not a word about miracles, their power, or use: which one would think strange, if they were the means appointed, and necessary to make men hear and consider, and without which they would not do it. Preaching, admonition, exhortation, intreaties, instruction, by the common light of reason, were known, and natural to be used, to persuade men. There needed not much to be said to convince men of it. But, if miracles were a necessary means, it was a means wholly new, unexpected, and out of the power of other teachers. And therefore one would think, if they were appointed for the ends you propose, one should hear something of that appointment: since that they were to be used; or how, and when; was farther from common apprehension, and seems to need some particular direction.
If you say the same spirit that gave them the power of miracles, would also give them the knowledge both that they had it, and how to use it; I am far enough from limiting the operations of that infinitely wise spirit, who will not fail to bring all the elect of God into the obedience of truth, by those means, and in that manner he shall think necessary. But yet our Saviour, when he sent abroad his disciples, with the power of miracles, not only put it in their commission, whereby they were informed, that they had that extraordinary gift, but added instructions to them in the use of it: “Freely you have received, freely give;” a caution as necessary to the Cretan elders, in the use of miracles, if they had that power; there being nothing more liable to be turned to the advantage of filthy lucre.
I do not question but the spirit of God might give the power, and stir up the mind of the first spreaders of the gospel to do miracles on some extraordinary occasion. But if they were a necessary means to make men hear and consider what was preached to them, till force supplied their place, and so were ordinarily to accompany the preaching of the gospel, unless it should be preached without the means appointed and necessary to make it prevail; I think in that case we may expect it should expressly have made a part of the preacher’s commission; it making a necessary part of the effectual execution of his function.
But the apostle, it seems, thought fit to lay the stress upon instructing others, and living well themselves; upon “being instant in season and out of season;” and therefore directs all his advices for the ordering the Cretan church, and the propagating the gospel there, to make them attend to those necessary things of life and doctrine, without so much as mentioning the appointment, need, or use of miracles.
I said, “But whatever neglect or aversion there is in some men, impartially and thoroughly to be instructed; there will, upon a due examination, I fear, be found no less a neglect and aversion in others, impartially and thoroughly to instruct them. It is not the talking even general truths in plain and clear language; much less a man’s own fancies in scholastical or uncommon ways of speaking, an hour or two, once a week, in public; that is enough to instruct even willing hearers in the way of salvation, and the grounds of their religion;” and that politic discourses and invectives from the pulpit, instead of friendly and christian debates with people at their houses, were not the proper means to inform men in the foundations of religion; and that if there were not a neglect in this part, I thought there would be little need of any other means. To this, you tell me, in the next paragraph, “you do not see how pertinent my discourse, about this matter, is to the present question.” If the showing the neglects, observable in the use of what is agreed to be necessary means, will not be allowed by you to be pertinent, in a debate about necessary means; when possibly those very neglects may serve to make other means seem requisite, which really are not so; yet if you are not of those who will never think any such discourse pertinent; you will allow me to mind you of it again, as not impertinent in answer to your last letter, wherein you so often tell us of the sufficient provision made for instruction. For wherever the neglect be, it can scarce be said there is sufficient provision made for instruction in a christian country, where great numbers of those, who are in the communion of the national church, are grossly ignorant of the grounds of the christian religion. And I ask you, whether it be in respect of such conformists you say, as you do in the same paragraph, that “when the best provision is made that can be, for the instruction of the people, you fear a great part of them will still need some moderate penalties to bring them to hear and receive instruction?”
But what if all the means that can, be not used for their instruction? That there are neglects of this kind, you will, I suppose, take the word of a reverend prelate of our church, who thought he could not better show his good-will to the clergy, than by a seasonable discourse of the pastoral care, to cure that neglect for the future. There he tells you, p. 115, 118, that “ministers should watch over and feed their flock, and not enjoy their benefices as farms, &c. Which reproach, says he, whatever we may be, our church is free of; which he proves by the stipulation and convenant they make with Christ, that they will never cease their labour, care and diligence, till they have done all that lieth in them, according to their bounden duty; towards all such as are, or should be committed to their care, to bring them to a ripeness of age in Christ.” And a page or two after, having repeated part of the promise by those who take orders, he adds: “In this is expressed the so much neglected, but so necessary duty, which incumbents owe their flock in a private way; visiting, instructing, and admonishing; which is one of the most useful and important parts of their duty, how generally soever it may be disused or forgotten. P. 187, he says, every priest that minds his duty will find, that no part of it is so useful as catechistical discourses; by means whereof, his people will understand all his sermons the better, when they have once a clear notion of all those terms that must run through them; for those not being understood, renders them all unintelligible. Another part of the priest’s duty he tells you, p. 201, is with relation to them that are without, who are of the side of the church of Rome, or among the dissenters. Other churches and bodies are noted for their zeal in making proselytes; for their restless endeavours, as well as their unlawful methods in it: they reckoning perhaps that all will be sanctified by the increasing their party; which is the true name of making converts; except they become at the same time good men as well as votaries to a side or cause. We are certainly very remiss in this of both hands. Little pains is taken to gain either upon papists or nonconformists: the law has been so much trusted to, that that method only was thought sure; it was much valued, and others at the same time were much neglected. And whereas, at first, without force or violence, in forty years time, popery, from being the prevailing religion, was reduced to a handful: we have now, in above twice that number of years, made very little progress,” &c.
Perhaps here again you will tell me, you “do not see how this is pertinent to the present question,” which, that you may see, give me leave to put you in mind, that neither you, nor any body else, can pretend force necessary, till all the means of persuasion have been used; and nothing neglected that can be done by all the softer ways of application. And since it is your own doctrine, that force is not lawful, unless where it is necessary; the magistrate, upon your principles, can neither lawfully use force, nor the ministers of any national church plead for it any-where, but where they themselves have first done their duties: a draft whereof, adapted to our present circumstances, we have in the newly published discourse of the pastoral care. And he that shall press the use of force as necessary, before he can answer it to himself and the world, that those who have taken on them the care of souls have performed their duties; were best consider, whether he does not draw up an accusation against the men of that holy order: or against the magistrate who suffers them to neglect any part of their duty. For whilst what that learned bishop, in the passages above cited, and in other places, mentions, is neglected; it cannot be said, that no other means but force is left; those, which are on all hands acknowledged necessary and useful means, not having yet been made use of.
To vindicate your method from novelty, you tell me, it is as old as St. Austin. Whatever he says in the place you quote, it shows only his opinion; but not that it was ever used. Therefore, to show it not to be new in practice, you add, that you “think it has been made use of by all those magistrates, who having made all requisite provisions for the instructing their people in the truth, have likewise required them under convenient penalties to embrace it.” Which is as much as to say, that those magistrates who used your method did use your method. And that certainly you may think safely, and without fear of being gainsaid.
But now I will tell you what I think, in my turn; and that is, if you could have found any magistrates who had made use of your method, as well as you think you have found a divine that approves of it; you would have named those magistrates as forwardly as you do St. Austin. If I think amiss, pray correct me yet, and name them.
That which makes me imagine you will hardly find any examples of it, is what I there said in these words; “All other law-makers have constantly taken this method; that where any thing was to be amended, the fault was first declared, and then penalties denounced against all those who, after a time set, should be found guilty of it. This the common sense of mankind, and the very reason of laws, (which are intended not for punishment, but correction,) has made so plain, that the subtilest and most refined lawmakers have not gone out of this course, nor have the most ingnorant and barbarous nations missed it. But you have outdone Solon and Lycurgus, Moses and our Saviour; and are resolved to be a law-maker of a way by yourself. It is an old and obsolete way, and will not serve your turn, to begin with warnings and threats of penalties, to be inflicted on those who do not reform, but continue to do that which you think they fail in. To allow of impunity to the innocent, or the opportunity of amendment to those who would avoid the penalties, are formalities not worth your notice. You are for a shorter and surer way. Take a whole tribe, and punish them at all adventures, whether guilty or no of the miscarriage which you would have amended; or without so much as telling them what it is you would have them do, but leaving them to find it out if they can. All these absurdities are contained in your way of proceeding, and are impossible to be avoided by any one, who will punish dissenters, and only dissenters, to make them consider and weigh the grounds of their religion, and impartially examine whether it be true or no; and upon what grounds they took it up; that so they may find and embrace the truth that must save them.” These absurdities, I fear, must be removed, before any magistrates will find your method practicable.
I having said, “Your method is not altogether unlike the plea made use of to excuse the late barbarous usage of the protestants in France, from being a persecution for religion, viz. That it was not a punishment for religion, but for disobeying the king’s laws, which required them to come to mass: so by your rule dissenters must be punished, not for the religion they have embraced, but the religion they have rejected.” In answer to this, in the next paragraph, you take abundance of pains to prove, that the king of France’s laws, that require going to mass, are no laws. You were best to say so on the other side of the water. It is sure the punishments were punishments, and the dragooning was dragooning. And if you think that plea excused them not, I am of your mind. But nevertheless am of opinion, as I was, that it will prove as good a plea as yours; which is what you argue against in your next paragraph, in the words following, wherein you examine the likeness of your new method to this plea. You tell me, “I say, by your rule, the dissenters (from the true religion, for you speak of no other) must be punished (or, if I please, subjected to moderate penalties, such as shall make them uneasy, but neither destroy or undo them:) for what?” Indeed I thought by your first book you meant not for their religion, but to make them consider; but here you ask me, “where it is you say that dissenters from the true religion are not to be punished for their religion? So then, it seems in your opinion now, dissenters from the true religion are to be punished,” or, as you are pleased to mollify the expression, for the thing is the same, “subjected to moderate penalties for their religion.” I think I shall not need to prove, to any one but one of your nice style, that the execution of penal laws, let the penalties be great or small, are punishments.
If therefore the religion of dissenters from the true, be a fault to be punished by the magistrate; who is to judge who are guilty of that fault? Must it be the magistrate every-where; or the magistrate in some countries, and not in others; or the magistrate no-where? If the magistrate no-where is to be judge who are dissenters from the true religion, he can no-where punish them. If he be to be every-where judge; then the king of France, or the great Turk, must punish those whom they judge dissenters from the true religion, as well as other potentates. If some magistrates have a right to judge, and others not: that yet, I fear, how absurd soever it be, should I grant it, will not do your business. For besides that, they will hardly agree to make you their infallible umpire in the case, to determine who of them have, and who have not this right to judge which is the true religion; or if they should, and you should declare the king of England had that right; viz. whilst he complied to support the orthodoxy, ecclesiastical polity, and those ceremonies which you approve of; but that the king of France, and the great Turk, had it not; and so could have no right to use force on those they judged dissenters from the true religion; you ought to bethink yourself what you will reply to one that should use your own words: “If such a degree of outward force, as has been mentioned, be really of great and even necessary use, for the advancing of the true religion, and salvation of souls; then it must be acknowledged, that in France and Turkey, &c. there is a right somewhere to use it, for the advancing those ends; unless we will say (what without impiety cannot be said) that the wise and benign Disposer and Governor of all things, has not in France and Turkey furnished mankind with competent means for the promoting his own honour, and the good of souls.”
You go on, and tell us, they are to be punished, not for following the light of their own reason, nor for obeying the dictates of their own consciences, “but rather for the contrary. For the light of their own reason and the dictates of their own conscience (if their reason and their consciences were not perverted and abused) would undoubtedly lead them to the same thing, to which the method you speak of is designed to bring them;” i. e. to the same thing to which your reason and your conscience leads you. For if you were to argue with a papist, or a presbyterian, in the case, what privilege have you to tell him, that his reason and conscience is perverted, more than he has to tell you that yours is so? Unless it be this insupportable presumption, that your reason and conscience ought to be the measure of all reason and conscience in all others; which how you can claim without pretending to infallibility, is not easy to discern.
The divertion you give yourself about the likeness and unlikeness of two pleas, I shall not trouble myself with; since, when your fit of mirth was over, you were forced to confess, That “as I have made your plea for you; you think there is no considerable difference, as to the fairness of them; excepting what arises from the different degrees of punishment, in the French discipline, and your method. But if the French plea be not true; and that which I make to be yours, be not yours;”—I must beg your pardon, sir, I did not think it was your opinion, nor do I yet remember that you any-where said in your “Argument,” &c. that men were to be punished for their religion; but that it was purely to make men “examine the religion they had embraced, and the religion that they had rejected.” And if that were of moment, I should think myself sufficiently justified for this my mistake, by what yon say in your “Argument,” &c. from p. 6 to 12. But since you explain yourself otherwise here, I am not unwilling to take your hypothesis, as you from time to time shall please to reform it. You answer then, that “to make them examine, is indeed the next end for which they are to be punished.” But what is that to my question? Which, if it be pertinent, demands for what fault, not for what end, they are to be punished: as appears even by my next words. “So that they are punished, not for having offended against a law, i. e. not for any fault: for there is no law in England that requires them to examine.” This, I must confess, was to show, that here, as in France, whatever was pretended, yet the true reason why people were punished, was their religion. And it was for this agreement, that in both places religion was meant, though something else was talked of, that I said your plea was like that made use of in France. But I see I might have spared my pains to prove that you punish dissenters for their religion, since you here own it.
You tell me, in the same place, I was impertinent in my question; which was this, “For what then are they to be punished?” that I demanded for what end, and not for what fault they are to be punished. In good earnest, sir, I was not so subtile as to distinguish them. I always thought that the end of all laws was to amend those faults which were forbidden; and that when any one was punished, the fault for which he was punished, was the transgression of the law, in that particular which was by the law commanded or forbidden; and the end of the punishment, was the amendment of that fault for the future. For example; if the law commanded to hear, not hearing was the fault punished; and the end of that punishment, was to make the offenders hear. If the law commanded to examine, the fault punished, when that law was put in execution, was not examining: and the end of the punishment, to make the offenders examine. If the law commanded conformity, the fault was nonconformity, and the end of it to make men conform.
This was my apprehension concerning laws, and ends of punishments. And I must own myself still so dull as not to distinguish otherwise between “the fault for which men are to be punished, and the end for which they are to be punished;” but only as the one is past, the other future. The transgression, or fault, is an omission or action that a man is already guilty of; the end of the punishment, that it be not again repeated. So that if a man be punished for the religion he professes, I can see no other end for which he is punished, but to make him quit that religion. No other immediate end, I mean; for other remote ends, to which this is subordinate, it may have. So that, if not examining the religion which men have embraced; and the religion they have rejected; be not the fault for which men are punished; I would be glad you would show me how it can be the next end, as you say it is, of their being punished. And that you may not think my dulness gives you a labour without ground, I will tell you the reason why I cannot find any other next end of punishment, but the amendment of the fault forbidden; and that is, because that seems to me to be the end, the next end, of any action; which, when obtained, the action is to cease; and not cease till it be attained. And thus, I think, it is in punishments ordained by the law. When the fault forbidden is amended, the punishment is to cease; and not till then. This is the only way I have to know the end, or final cause for which any action is done. If you have any other, you will do me a kindness to instruct me. This it is which makes me conclude, (and I think with me all those who have not had the leisure and happiness to attain the utmost refining of the schools,) that if their religion be the fault for which dissenters are punished, examining is not the end for which they are punished, but the change of their religion: though examining may, perhaps, in some men, precede their change, and help to it. But that is not necessary. A man may change his religion without it: and when he has changed, let the motive be what it will, the end the law aims at is obtained, and the punishment ceases. So on the other side, if not hearing, not examining, be the fault for which men are punished; conformity is not the next end for which they are punished, though it may perhaps, in some, be a consequence of it; but hearing and examining must be understood to be the ends for which they are punished. If they are not the ends, why does the punishment cease, when those ends are attained? And thus you have my thoughts concerning this matter, which perhaps will not be very pertinent, as mine have not the good luck always to be to you; to a man of nicer distinctions.
But let us consider your hypothesis as it now stands, and see what advantage you have got to your cause by this new explication. “Dissenters from the true religion are to be punished, say you, for their religion.” Why? Because it is a fault. Against whom? Against God. Thence it follows indeed, that God, if he pleases, may punish it. But how will you prove that God has given the magistrates of the earth a power to punish all faults against himself? Covetousness, or not loving our neighbour as ourselves, are faults or sins against God. Ought the magistrate to punish these? But I shall not need to trouble you much with that question. This matter, I think, will be decided between us without going so far.
If the magistrate may punish any one for not being of the true religion, must the magistrate judge what is that true religion, or no? If he must not, what must guide him in the punishing of some, and not of others? For so it is in all places where there is a national religion established by penal laws. If the magistrate be commissioned by the same law of nature (for that is all the commission you pretend to) to judge what is the true religion, by which he is authorized to punish those who dissent from it; must not all magistrates judge, and accordingly punish those who dissent from that, which they judge the true religion, i. e. in effect, those who dissent from theirs? And if all magistrates have a power to punish those who are not of their religion; I ask you, whether it be of more use or disadvantage to the promoting true religion, and salvation of souls? And when you have resolved that question, you will then be able to tell me, whether the usefulness of it, which must be determined by the greater good or harm it is like to do, is such as to justify your doctrine about it, or the magistrate’s use of it.
Besides, your making the dissenting from the true religion a fault to be punished by the magistrate, puts an end to your pretence to moderate punishments; which, in this place, you make use of to distinguish yours from the French method; saying, that “your method punishes men with punishments which do not deserve to be called so, when compared with those of the French discipline.” But if the dissenting from the true religion be a fault that the magistrate is to punish, and a fault of that consequence, that it draws with it the loss of a man’s soul; I do not see how other magistrates, whose duty it is to punish faults under their cognizance, and by punishing to amend them; can be more remiss than the king of France has been, and forbear declaring that they will have all their people saved, and endeavour by such ways as he has done to effect it: especially since you tell us, that “God now leaves religion to the care of men, under his ordinary providence, to try whether they will do their duties in their several capacities or not, leaving them answerable for all that may follow from their neglect.” In the correcting of faults, “malo nodo malus cuneus,” is not only what is justifiable, but what is requisite. But of this more fully in another place.
In the next place, I do not see how, by your method, as you explain it here, the magistrate can punish any one for not being of the true religion, though we should grant him to have a power to do it; whilst you tell us, that “your method punishes men for rejecting the true religion, proposed to them with sufficient evidence; which certainty is a fault.” By this part of your scheme it is plain, that you allow the magistrate to punish none but those to whom the true religion is proposed with sufficient evidence; and sufficient evidence, you tell us, “is such as will certainly win assent where-ever it is duly considered.” Now by this rule there will be very few that the magistrate will have a right to punish; since he cannot know whether those who dissent, do it for want of due consideration in them, or want of sufficient evidence in what is proposed; unless you mean by due consideration, such consideration that always does bring men actually to assent; which is in effect to say nothing at all. For then your rule amounts to thus much, “that sufficient evidence is such as will certainly win assent wherever it is considered duly,” i. e. so as to win assent. This being like some of those other rules we have met with, and ending in a circle; which after you have traced, you at last find yourself just where you were at setting out; I leave it to you to own as you think fit: and tell you, if by duly considering, you mean considering to his utmost; that then, that which is proposed to one with sufficient evidence to win assent, may not be so to another.
There are propositions extant in geometry, with their demonstrations annexed; and that with such sufficient evidence to some men of deep thought and penetration, as to make them see the demonstration, and give assent to the truth: whilst there are many others, and those no novices in mathematics, who, with all the consideration and attention they can use, are never able to attain unto it. It is so in other parts of truth. That which hath evidence enough to make one man certain, has not enough to make another so much as guess it to be true; though he has spared no endeavour or application in examining it. And therefore, if the magistrate be to punish none but those who reject the true religion, when it has been offered with sufficient evidence; I imagine he will not have many to punish, if he will, as he ought, distinguish between the innocent and the guilty.
Upon your forwardness to encourage the magistrate’s use of force in matters of religion, by its usefulness; even so far as to pretend advantages from what yourself acknowledge the misapplication of it; I say that “So instead of disheartening from, you give encouragement to the mischief; which upon your principle, joined to the natural thirst in man after arbitrary power; may be carried to all manner of exorbitancy, with some pretence of right.” To which your reply is, That you “speak no-where but of the use and necessity of force.” What think you in the place mentioned of the gain that you tell the sufferers they shall make by the magistrate’s punishing them to bring them to a wrong religion? You do not, as I remember, there say, that force is necessary in that case; though they gaining, as you say, by it this advantage, “that they know better than they did before, where the truth does lie,” you cannot but allow, that such a misapplication of force “may do some service, indirectly and at a distance, towards the salvation of souls.”
But that you may not think, whilst I had under consideration the dangerous encouragement you gave to men in power, to be very busy with their force in matters of religion; by all the sorts of usefulness you could imagine of it, however applied, right or wrong; that I declined mentioning the necessity you pretend of force, because it would not as well serve to the purpose for which I mention its usefulness; I shall here take it so, that the reader may see what reason you had to complain of my not doing it before.
Thus then stands your system: “The procuring and advancing any way of the spiritual and eternal interests of men, is one of the ends of civil society.” And force is put into the magistrate’s hands, as necessary for the attaining those ends, where no other means are left, “Who then upon your grounds may quickly find reason, where it suits his inclination, or serves his turn, to punish men directly to bring them to his religion.” For if he may use force because it is necessary, as being the only means left to make men consider those reasons and arguments, which otherwise they would not consider; why may he not by the same rule use force, as the only means left to procure men degrees of glory, which otherwise they would not attain; and so to advance their eternal interests? For St. Paul assures us, that “the afflictions of this life work for us a far more exceeding weight of glory.” So that whether the magistrate may not, when it may serve his turn, argue thus from your principles, judge you: dissenters from my religion must be punished, if in the wrong, to bring them into the right way; if in the right, to make them by their sufferings gainers of a far more exceeding weight of glory.
But you say, “unless it be as necessary for men to attain any greater degree of glory, as it is to attain glory, it will not follow, that if the magistrate may use force, because it may be indirectly, &c. useful towards the procuring any degree of glory, he may by the same rule use it where it may be in that manner useful towards the procuring a greater degree of glory. But that there is the same necessity of men’s attaining a greater degree of glory, as there is of their attaining glory, no man will affirm. For without attaining glory, they cannot escape the damnation of hell; which yet they may escape, without any greater degree of glory.” One of the ends of a commonwealth is, say you, the advancing men’s eternal interests. The procuring greater degrees of glory, is the advancing a man’s eternal interest. The use of force to make men suffer for the truth, what otherwise they would not suffer, is as necessary for the attaining a higher degree of glory, as using force to make men consider, what otherwise they would not consider, is necessary for the attaining any degree of glory. But you will say, “Attaining glory is absolutely necessary, but the attaining any greater degree of glory, however desirable, is not so necessary. Now if there be not the same necessity of the one of these, as there is of the other; there can be no pretence to say, that whatever is lawful in respect of one of them, is likewise so in respect of the other.” But there will always be a just pretence to say, if advancing the eternal interests of men be one of the ends of a commonwealth, and that the force in the magistrate’s hands be necessary to the attaining that end; that then the magistrate is obliged to use it; whether you will think that end absolutely necessary, or as necessary as another, or no. I shall not here trouble you again with your mistake about what is absolutely necessary; having taken notice of it in another place. Only I shall desire you to show me, that the attaining of glory is absolutely necessary, when next time you have occasion to affirm it. Attaining of glory is necessary in order to happiness: and attaining a greater degree of glory, is necessary in order to greater happiness: but neither of them is absolutely necessary, but in order to their respective ends.
And now, though as you say, “you do not think yourself bound to take notice of all that may be done with some pretence of right:” yet, I suppose, upon cooler thoughts, when you have considered of what dangerous consequence an argument, managed as yours is, may be to the true religion, and the sincere professors of it; and what occasion or encouragement it may give to men in power warmed with zeal, and excited by the proper ministers of their own religion, to make a wrong and exorbitant use of force in matters of religion; you will another time think yourself bound not to let it go abroad again without some caution to the magistrate in the use of it; without one word of advice at least, that since it is given him, as you say, only for promoting the true religion, he should take care, and examine impartially whether what he employs it for, be the one only true religion. It being your opinion, whenever he makes use of force in matters of religion, for the promoting any thing but that, he goes beyond his commission; injures his subjects, and endangers his own soul.
By this time, sir, I suppose you see upon what grounds I think you have not cleared those difficulties which were charged by me on your method: and my reader will see what reason there was for those imputations, which, with so loud an outcry, you laid upon me of unfair dealing; since there is not one of them which cannot be made good to be contained either in your book, or in your hypothesis; and so clearly, that I could not imagine that a man who had so far considered government, as to engage in print, in such a controversy as this; could miss seeing it as soon as mentioned to him. One of them which very much offends you, and makes you so often tell me what I say is impertinent, and nothing to the purpose, and sometimes to use warmer expressions, is, that I argue against a power in the magistrate to bring men to his own religion: for I could not imagine that, to a man of any thought, it could need proving, that if there were a commission given to all magistrates by the law of nature, which obliged them to use force to bring men to the true religion; it was not possible for them to put this commission in execution, without being judges what was the true religion; and then there needed no great quickness to perceive, that every magistrate, when your commission came to be put in execution, would, one as well as another, find himself obliged to use force to bring men to that which he believed to be the true religion. But since this was so hard for you to see, I now have been at the pains to prove it, and thereby to clear all those imputations. I shall not instance in any other; they are all of a like kind. Only where you complain I have not cited your words fairly, if you can show that I have done it any where in this or the second letter, to the advantage of my cause; or to avoid any argument in them, not answered; if you please to show it me, I shall either let you see your mistake, or acknowledge mine.
And now, whether you shall think what I have said worth that consideration you promise, or take it all for cavils and impertinencies, to me is very indifferent. Enjoy, as you please, that short and easy way of answering. But if the party you write for be, as you say, God, and the souls of men; it will require you seriously to weigh your scheme, examine and put together the parts of it; observe the tendency and consequences; and, in a word, consider things, and not words. For the party of God and souls needs not any help from obscurity or uncertainty of general and equivocal terms; but may be spoke out clearly and distinctly; needs no retreat in the round of equivalent, or the uncertainty of misapplied expressions, that may serve to amuse and deceive the unwary, but instruct nobody; and, lastly, needs no leave nor allowance from men of art, to direct both subjects and magistrates to the examination of the scriptures, wherein God has revealed to the world the ways and means of salvation. In doing of this, in a treatise where you profess “the subject of your inquiry is only what method is to be used to bring men to the true religion,” the party you profess to write for, would have justified you against the rules of any lawful art: and no christian man, of what art soever, would have denied you that liberty; and if I mistake not, the party, you say you write for, demands it of you.
If you find upon a review of the whole, that you have managed your cause for God and the souls of men, with that sincerity and clearness that satisfies your own reason, and you think may satisfy that of other men: I shall congratulate to you so happy a constitution. But if all your magnified and necessary means of force, in the way you contend for, reaches no further than to bring men to a bare outward conformity to the church of England; wherein you can sedately affirm, that it is presumable that all that are of it are so upon reason and conviction; I suppose there needs no more to be said to convince the world what party you write for.
The party you write for is God, you say. But if all you have said aims or amounts to nothing more, than that the church of England, as now established by law, in its doctrines, ceremonies, and discipline, should be supported by the power of the magistrate, and men by force be driven into it; I fear the world will think you have very narrow thoughts of God: or that that is not the party you write for. It is true, you all along speak of bringing men to the true religion. But to evidence to you, that by the one only true religion, you mean only that of the church of England, I tell you, that upon your principles, you cannot name any other church now in the world; (and I again demand of you to do it) for the promoting whereof, or punishing dissenters from it, the magistrate has the same right to use force, as you pretend he has here in England. Till you therefore name some such other true church and true religion, besides that of England, your saying, that God is the party you write for, will rather show that you make bold with his name, than that you do not write for another party.
You say too, you write not for any party, but the souls of men. You write indeed, and contend earnestly, that men should be brought into an outward conformity to the church of England. But that they embrace that profession upon reason and conviction; you are content to have it presumable, without any farther enquiry or examination. And those who are once in the outward communion of the national church, however ignorant or irreligious they are, you leave there unassisted by your only competent means, force; without which, you tell us, the true religion, by its own light and strength, is not able to prevail against men’s lusts, and the corruption of nature, so as to be considered as it ought, and heartily embraced. And this dropped not from your pen by chance; but you professedly make excuses for those of the national religion, who are ignorant of the grounds of it; and give us reasons why force cannot be used to those who outwardly conform, to make them consider so as sincerely to embrace, believe, and obey the truth that must save them. But the reverend author of the Pastoral Care tells you, p. 201, “Party is the true name of making converts, except they become at the same time good men.”
If the use of force be necessary for the salvation of souls, and men’s souls be the party you write for: you will be suspected to have betrayed your party, if your method and necessary means of salvation reach no further than to bring men to outward conformity, though to the true church; and after that abandons them to their lusts and depraved natures, destitute of the help of force; your necessary and competent means of salvation.
This way of managing the matter, whatever you intend, seems rather, in the fitness of it, to be for another party. But since you assure us, you write for nothing but God and men’s souls; it can only be said you had a good intention, but ill luck: since your scheme, put into the language of the country, will fit any national church and clergy in the world, that can but suppose itself the true; and that I presume none of them will fail to do.
You were more than ordinary reserved and gracious, when you tell me, That “what party I write for, you will not undertake to say.” But having told me, that my letter tends to the promoting of scepticism in religion; you thought, it is like, that was sufficient to show the party I write for; and so you might safely end your letter with words that looked like civil. But that you may another time be a little better informed what party I write for, I will tell you. They are those who in every nation fear God, work righteousness, and are accepted with him; and not those who in every nation are zealous for human constitutions: cry up nothing so much as outward conformity to the national religion; and are accepted by those who are the promoters of it. Those that I write for are those, who, according to the light of their own consciences, are every-where in earnest in matters of their own salvation, without any desire to impose on others; a party so seldom favoured by any of the powers or sects of the world; a party that has so few preferments to bestow; so few benefices to reward the endeavours of any one who appears for it; that I conclude I shall easily be believed when I say, that neither hopes of preferment, nor a design to recommend myself to those I live amongst, have biassed my understanding, or misled me in my undertaking. So much truth as serves the turn of any particular church, and can be accommodated to the narrow interest of some human constitution, is indeed often received with applause, and the publisher finds his account in it. But I think I may say, truth, in its full latitude of those generous principles of the gospel, which so much recommend and inculcate universal charity, and a freedom from the inventions and impositions of men in the things of God; has so seldom had a fair and favourable hearing anywhere, that he must be very ignorant of the history and nature of man, however dignified and distinguished, who proposes to himself any secular advantage by writing for her at that rate.
As to your request in the close of your letter, I hope this will satisfy you, that you might have spared it; and you, with the rest of the world, will see that all I writ in my former was so true, that you need not have given me any caution for the future. As to the pertinence of what I say, I doubt whether I shall please you; because I find by your last letter, that what is brought by me to show the weakness, absurdities, or insignificancy of what you write, you are very apt to call impertinent and nothing to the purpose. You must pardon me therefore, if I have endeavoured more to please other readers than you in that point. I hope they will find, in what I have said, not much beside the matter. But to a man who, supposing himself in the right, builds all upon that supposition, and takes it for an injury to have that privilege denied him; to a man who would sovereignly decide for all the world, what is the true religion; and thereby empower what magistrates he thinks fit, and what not, to use force; to such a man, not to seem impertinent, would be really to be so. This makes me pleased with your reply to so many passages of my letter, that they were nothing to the purpose: and it is in your choice whether in your opinion any thing in this shall be so.
But since this depends upon your keeping steadily to clear and settled notions of things, separate from words and expressions used in a doubtful and undetermined signification; wherewith men of art often amuse themselves and others; I shall not be so unreasonable as to expect, whatever you promise, that you should lay by your learning to embrace truth, and own what will not perhaps suit very well with your circumstances and interest.
I see, my design not to omit any thing that you might think looks like an argument in yours, has made mine grow beyond the size of a letter. But an answer to any one being very little different from a letter, I shall let it go under that title. I have in it also endeavoured to bring the scattered parts of your scheme into some method, under distinct heads; to give a fuller and more distinct view of them; wherein, if any of the arguments, which give support to your hypothesis, have escaped me unawares, be pleased to show them me, and I shall either acknowledge their force, or endeavour to show their weakness.
I am, SIR, Your most humble servant,
June 20, 1692.
A FOURTH LETTER FOR TOLERATION.
A fresh revival of the controversy formerly between you and me, is what I suppose nobody did expect from you after twelve years silence. But reputation, a sufficient cause for a new war, as you give the world to understand, hath put a resolution into your heart, and arms into your hands, to make an example of me, to the shame and confusion of all those who could be so injurious to you, as to think you could quit the opinion you had appeared for in print, and agree with me in the matter of Toleration. It is visible how tender even men of the most settled calmness are in point of reputation, and it is allowed the most excusable part of human frailty; and therefore nobody can wonder to see a report thought injurious laboured against with might and main, and the assistance and cause of religion itself taken in and made use of to put a stop to it. But yet for all this there are sober men who are of opinion, that it better becomes a Christian temper, that disputes, especially of religion, should be waged purely for the sake of truth, and not for our own: self should have nothing to do in them. But since as we see it will crowd itself in, and be often the principal agent; your ingenuity in owning what has brought you upon the stage again, and set you on work, after the ease and quiet you resolutely maintained yourself in so many years; ought to be commended, in giving us a view of the discreet choice you have made of a method suited to your purpose, which you publish to the world in these words, p. 2: “Being desirous to put a stop to a report so injurious, as well as groundless, as I look upon this to be, I think, it will be no improper way of doing it, if I thus signify to you and the reader, that I find nothing more convincing in this your long letter, than I did in your two former; giving with all a brief Specimen of the answerableness of it: which I choose to do upon a few pages at the beginning, where you have placed your greatest strength, or at least so much of it, as you think sufficient to put an end to this controversy.”
Here we have your declaration of war, of the grounds that moved you to it, and of your compendious way to assured victory; which I must own is very new and very remarkable. You choose a few pages out of the beginning of my Third Letter; in these, you say, “I have placed my greatest strength.” So that, what I have there said being baffled, it gives you a just triumph over my whole long Letter; and all the rest of it being but pitiful, weak, impertinent stuff, is by the overthrow of this forlorn hope fully confuted.
This is called answering by Specimen. A new way, which the world owes to your invention; an evidence that whilst you said nothing you did not spare thinking. And indeed it was a noble thought, a stratagem, which I believe scarce any other but yourself would have found out in a meditation of twice twelve years; how to answer arguments without saying a word to them, or so much as reciting them; and, by examining six or seven pages in the beginning of a book, reduce to nothing above three hundred pages of it that follow. This is indeed a decisive stroke that lays all flat before you. Who can stand against such a conqueror, who, by barely attacking of one, kills an hundred? This would certainly be an admirable way, did it not degrade the conqueror, whose business is to do; and turn him into a mere talking gazetteer, whose boasts are of no consequence. For after slaughter of foes, and routing of armies by such a dead-doing hand, nobody thinks it strange to find them all alive again safe and sound upon their feet, and in a posture of defending themselves. The event in all sorts of controversies, hath often better instructed those who have, without bringing it to trial, presumed on the weakness of their adversaries. However, this which you have set up, of confuting without arguing; cannot be denied to be a ready way, and well thought on to set you up high, and your reputation secure in the thoughts of your believing readers; if that be, as it seems it is, your business: but as I take it, tends not at all to the informing their understandings, and making them see the truth and grounds it stands on. That perhaps is too much for the profane vulgar to know; it is enough for them that you know it for them, and have assured them, that you can, when you please to condescend so far, confound all that any one offers against your opinion. An implicit faith of your being in the right, and ascribing victory to you, even in points whereof you have said nothing; is that which some sort of men think most useful; and so their followers have but tongues for their champion to give him the praise and authority he aims at, it is no matter whether they have any eyes for themselves to see on which side the truth lies. Thus methinks you and I both find our account in this controversy under your management; you in setting your reputation safe from the blemish it would have been to it that you were brought over to my opinion; and I in seeing (if you will forgive me so presumptuous a word) that you have left my cause safe in all those parts you have said nothing to, and not very much damaged in that part you have attacked; as I hope to show the indifferent reader. You enter upon your specimen, p. 2, by minding me that I tell you, “That I doubt not but to let you see, that if you will be true to your own principles, and stand to what you have said, you must carry some degrees of force to all those degrees which in words you declare against; even to the discipline of fire and faggot.” And you say, “if I make my word good, you assure me you will carry a faggot yourself to the burning what you have written for so unmerciful and outrageous a discipline: but till I have done that, you suppose the discipline you have endeavoured to defend, may remain safe and unhurt; as it is in its own nature, harmless and salutary to the world.”
To promise fairly is then the part of an honest man, when the time of performance is not yet come. But it falls out unluckily here, for you who have undertaken, by answering some parts of my second Letter, to show the answerableness of the whole; that instead of answering, you promise to retract, “if I make good my word, in proving upon your own principles you must carry your some degrees of force to fire and faggot.”
Sir, my endeavours to make my word good, have lain before you a pretty competent time; the world is witness of it, and will, as I imagine, think it time for you, since you yourself have brought this question upon the stage, either to acknowledge that I have made my word good; or by invalidating my arguments, show that I have not. He that after a debt of so many years only promises what brave things he will do hereafter, is hardly thought upon the Exchange to do what he ought. The account in his hand requires to be made up and balanced; and that will show, not what he is to promise, but, if he be a fair man, what he is to perform. If the schools make longer allowances of time, and admit evasions for satisfaction; it is fit you use your privilege, and take more time to consider; only I crave leave in the mean while to refer my reader to what I have said on this argument, chap. iv. of my third Letter, that he may have a view of your way of answering by specimen, and judge whether all that I have there urged be answered by what you say here; or what you promise here be ever like to be performed.
The next sample you give to show the answerableness of my Letter, is not much more lucky than the former; it may be seen, p. 3 and 4, where you say, that I tell you, p. 119, “That you have altered the question;” for it seems, p. 26, you tell me the question between us is, “Whether the magistrate has a right to use force, to bring men to the true religion? Whereas, p. 76, you yourself, I say, own the question to be, whether the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion?” “Which affirmation, of mine, you must take leave to tell me, is a mere fiction, for neither p. 76, nor any-where else, do you own the question to be what I say you do.”
“And as to using force in matters of religion (which you say are my words not yours,) if I mean by it the using force to bring men to any other religion besides the true; you are so far from owning the question to be, whether the magistrate has a right to use force for such a purpose, that you have always thought it out of question, that no man in the world, magistrate or other, can have any right to use either force, or any other means that I can name, to bring men to any false religion; how much soever he may persuade himself that it is true.”
“It is not therefore from any alteration, but from the true state of the question, that you take occasion, as I complain without cause, to lay a load on me for charging you with the absurdities of a power in the magistrates to punish men, to bring them to their religion.” “But it seems, having little to say against what you do assert, you say, I find it necessary myself to alter the question, and to make the world believe that you assert what you do not; that I may have something before me which I can confute.”
In this paragraph you positively deny, that it is anywhere owned by you as the question between us “Whether the magistrate has a right of using force in matters of religion?” Indeed these words are not as they are cited in p. 76 of your former Letter; but he that will turn over the leaf, may, in p. 78, read these words of yours, viz. that “You refer it to me, whether I, in saying nobody has a right, or you, in saying the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion, have most reason:” though you positively tell me, “that neither p. 76, nor any-where else, do you own the question to be what I say you do.” And now let the reader judge between us. I should not perhaps have so much as taken notice of this, but that you who are so sparing of your answer, that you think a brief specimen upon some few pages of the beginning of my Letter, sufficient to confute all I have said in it; do yet spend the better part of two pages on this: which if I had been mistaken in, it had been of no great consequence; of which I see no other use you have, but to cast on me some civil reflections of your fashion; and fix on me the imputation of fiction, mere fiction; a compliment which I shall not return you, though you say, “using force in matters of religion,” are my words, not yours. Whether they are your words or not, let p. 78 of your former Letter decide; where you own yourself to say, that “the magistrate has a right to use force in matters of religion.” So that this, as I take it, is a specimen of your being very positive in a mistake, and about a plain matter of fact; about an action of your own; and so will scarce prove a specimen of the answerableness of all I say in my letter; unless we must allow that truth and falsehood are equally answerable, when you declare against either of them.
The next part of your specimen we have, p. 4, 5, where you tell me that I undertake to prove, that “if upon your grounds the magistrate be obliged to use force to bring men to the true religion; it will necessarily follow, that every magistrate, who believes his religion to be true, is obliged to use force to bring men to his.”
“Now because this undertaking is so necessary for me; and my whole cause seems to depend upon the success of it: you shall the more carefully consider how well I perform it. But before you do this, it will be fit to let me know, in what sense you grant my inference, and in what sense you deny it. Now that every magistrate, who upon just and sufficient grounds believes his religion to be true, is obliged to use some moderate penalties, (which is all the force you ever contended for,) to bring men to his religion, you freely grant; because that must needs be the true religion; since no other can, upon such grounds, be believed to be true. But that any magistrate, who upon weak and deceitful grounds believes a false religion to be true, (and he can never do it upon better grounds,) is obliged to use the same, or any other means, to bring men to his religion; this you flatly deny; nor can it by any rules of reasoning be inferred from what you assert.”
Here you tell me you grant my inference in this sense, viz. “That every magistrate, who upon just and sufficient grounds believes his religion to be true, is bound to use force to bring men to it.”
Here you grant that every magistrate, without knowing that his religion is true, is obliged, upon his believing it to be true, to use force to bring men to it; indeed you add, “who believes it to be true upon just and sufficient grounds.” So you have got a distinction, and that always sets off a disputant, though many times it is of no use to his argument. For here let me ask you, who must be judge, whether the grounds upon which he believes his religion to be true, be just and sufficient? Must the magistrate himself judge for himself, or must you judge for him? A third competitor in this judgment I know not where you will find for your turn. If every magistrate must judge for himself, whether the grounds upon which he believes his religion to be true, are just and sufficient grounds; your limitation of the use of force to such only as believe upon just and sufficient grounds, bating that it is an ornament to your style and learning, might have been spared, since it leaves my inference untouched in the full latitude I have expressed it concerning every magistrate; there not being any one magistrate excluded thereby from an obligation to use force to bring men to his own religion, by this your distinction. For if every magistrate, who upon just and sufficient grounds believes his religion to be true, be obliged to use force to bring men to his religion, and every magistrate be himself judge, whether the grounds he believes upon be just and sufficient; it is visible every magistrate is obliged to use force to bring men to his religion; since any one, who believes any religion to be true, cannot but judge the grounds, upon which he believes it to be true, are just and sufficient: for if he judged otherwise, he could not then believe it to be true. If you say, you must judge for the magistrate, then what you grant is this, That every magistrate who, upon grounds that you judge to be just and sufficient, believes his religion to be true, is obliged to use force to bring men to his religion. If this be your meaning, as it seems not much remote from it, you will do well to speak it out, that the magistrates of the world may know who to have recourse to in the difficulty you put upon them, in declaring them under an obligation to use force to bring men to the true religion; which they can neither certainly know, nor must venture to use force to bring men to, upon their own persuasion of the truth of it; when they have nothing but one of these two, viz. knowledge, or belief that the religion they promote is true, to determine them. Necessity has at last (unless you would have the magistrate act in the dark and use his force wholly at random) prevailed on you to grant, that the magistrate may use force to bring men to that religion which he believes to be true; but, say you, “his belief must be upon just and sufficient grounds.” The same necessity remaining still, must prevail with you to go one step further, and tell me whether the magistrate himself must be judge, whether the grounds, upon which he believes his religion to be true, be just and sufficient; or whether you are to be judge for him. If you say the first, my inference stands good, and then this question, I think, is yielded, and at an end. If you say you are to be judge for the magistrates, I shall congratulate to the magistrates of the world the way you have found out for them to acquit themselves of their duty, if you will but please to publish it, that they may know where to find you; for in truth, sir, I prefer you, in this case, to the pope; though you know that old gentleman at Rome has long since laid claim to all decisions of this kind, and alleges infallibility for the support of his title; which indeed will scarce be able to stand at Rome, or anywhere else, without the help of infallibility. But of this perhaps more in the next paragraph.
You go on with your specimen in your next paragraph, p. 5, which I shall crave leave of my reader to set down at large, it being a most exact and studied piece of artificial fencing, wherein, under the cover of good words, and the appearance of nice thinking, nothing is said; and therefore many deserve to be kept, not as a specimen of your answering; for, as we shall see, you answer nothing; but as a specimen of your skill in seeming to say something where you have nothing to answer. You tell me that I say, p. 120, that “I suppose that you will grant me (what he must be a hard man indeed that will not grant) that any thing laid upon the magistrate as a duty, is some way or other practicable. Now the magistrate being obliged to use force in matters of religion, but yet so as to bring men only to the true religion; he will not be in any capacity to perform this part of his duty, unless the religion he is to promote be what he can certainly know; or else what it is sufficient for him to believe to be the true: either his knowledge, or his opinion, must point out that religion to him, which he is by force to promote. Where, if by knowing, or knowledge, I mean the effect of strict demonstration; and by believing, or opinion, any sort of assent or persuasion how slightly soever grounded: then you must deny the sufficiency of my division; because there is a third sort or degree of persuasion, which, though not grounded upon strict demonstration; yet in firmness and stability does far exceed that which is built upon slight appearances of probability; being grounded upon such clear and solid proof, as leaves no reasonable doubt in an attentive and unbiassed mind: so that it approaches very near to that which is produced by demonstration; and is therefore, as it respects religion, very frequently and familiarly called in scripture not faith or belief only, but knowledge; and in divers places full assurance; as might easily be shown, if that were needful. Now this kind of persuasion, this knowledge, this full assurance men may, and ought to have of the true religion: but they can never have it of a false one. And this it is, that must point out that religion to the magistrate, which he is to promote by the method you contend for.”
Here the first thing you do is to pretend an uncertainty of what I mean by “knowing or knowledge, and by believing or opinion.” First, As to knowledge, I have said “certainly know.” I have called it “vision; knowledge and certainty; knowledge properly so called.” And for believing or opinion, I speak of believing with assurance; and say, that believing in the highest degree of assurance, is not knowledge. That whatever is not capable of demonstration, is not, unless it be self-evident, capable to produce knowledge, how well grounded and great soever the assurance of faith may be wherewith it is received. That I grant, that a stong assurance of any truth, settled upon prevalent and well-grounded arguments of probability, is often called knowledge in popular ways of talking; but being here to distinguish between knowledge and belief, to what degrees of confidence soever raised, their boundaries must be kept, and their names not confounded; with more to the same purpose, p. 120, 121; whereby it is so plain, that by knowledge I mean the effect of strict demonstration; and by believing or opinion, I mean any degree of persuasion even to the highest degree of assurance; that I challenge you yourself to set it down in plainer and more express terms. But nobody can blame you for not finding your adversary’s meaning, let it be ever so plain; when you can find nothing to answer to it. The reason therefore which you allege for the denying the sufficiency of my division, is no reason at all. Your pretended reason is because there is “a third sort or degree of persuasion; which though not grounded upon strict demonstration; yet in firmness and stability does far exceed that which is built upon slight appearances of probability,” &c. Let it be so, that there is a degree of persuasion; not grounded upon strict demonstration, far exceeding that which is built upon slight appearances of probability. But let me ask you what reason can this be to deny the sufficiency of my division, because there is, as you say, a third sort or degree of persuasion; when even that which you call this third sort or degree of persuasion is contained in my division. This is a specimen indeed, not of answering what I have said; but of not answering; and for such I leave it to the reader. “A degree of persuasion, though not grounded on strict demonstration, yet in firmness and stability far exceeding that which is built upon slight appearances of probability, you call here a third sort or degree of persuasion.” Pray tell me which are the two other sorts; for knowledge upon strict demonstration, is not belief or persuasion, but wholly above it. Besides, if the degrees of firmness in persuasion make different sorts of persuasion, there are not only three, but three hundred sorts of persuasion; and therefore the naming of your third sort was with little ground, and to no purpose or tendency to an answer; though the drawing in something like a distinction be always to the purpose of a man who hath nothing to answer; it giving occasion for the use of many good words; which, though nothing to the point, serve to cover the disputant’s saying nothing, under the appearance of learning, to those who will not be at the pains to examine what he says.
You say, “every magistrate is by the law of nature under an obligation to use force to bring men to the true religion.” To this I urge, that the magistrate hath nothing else to determine him in the use of force, for promotion of any religion one before another, but only his own belief or persuasion of the truth of it. Here you had nothing to do, but fairly to grant or deny: but instead thereof you first raise a groundless doubt as I have shown about my meaning, whereof there could be no doubt at all to any one who would but read what I had said: and thereupon having got a pretence for a distinction, you solemnly tell the world “there is a third sort of persuasion, which, though not grounded on strict demonstration; yet in firmness and stability does far exceed that which is built upon slight appearances of probability, leaving no doubt, approaching near to knowledge, being full assurance.” Well, the magistrate hath a “persuasion of firmness and stability, has full assurance;” must he be determined by this his full assurance in the promoting of that religion by force, of whose truth he is in so high a degree of persuasion so fully assured? “No, say you, it must be grounded upon such clear and solid proof as leaves no reasonable doubt in an attentive and unbiassed mind.” To which the magistrate is ready to reply, that he, upon his grounds, can see no reasonable doubt; and that his is an attentive and unbiassed mind; of all which he himself is to be judge, till you can produce your authority to judge for him; though, in the conclusion, you actually make yourself judge for him. “It is such a kind of persuasion, such a full assurance must point out to the magistrate that religion he is to promote by force, which can never be had but of the true religion:” which is in effect, as every one may see, the religion that you judge to be true; and not the religion the magistrate judges to be true. For pray tell me, must the magistrate’s full assurance point out to him the religion which he is by force to promote; or must he by force promote a religion, of whose truth he hath no belief, no assurance at all? If you say the first of these, you grant that every magistrate must use force to promote his own religion; for that is the religion whereof he has so full assurance, that he ventures his eternal state upon it. Ay, say you, that is for want of attention; and because he is not unbiassed. It is like he will say the same of you, and then you are quits. And that he should by force promote that religion which he believes not to be true, is so absurd, that I think you can neither expect it, nor bring yourself to say it. Neither of these therefore being answers that you can make use of, that which lies at the bottom, though you give it but covertly, is this, “That the magistrate ought by force to promote the religion that you believe with full assurance to be true.” This would do admirably well for your purpose, were not the magistrate intitled to ask, “who made you a judge for him in the case?” And ready to retort your own words upon you, that it is want of attention and unbiassedness in you, that puts your religion past doubt with you upon your proofs of it. Try when you please with a bramin, a mahometan, a papist, lutheran, quaker, anabaptist, presbyterian, &c. you will find if you argue with them, as you do here with me, that the matter will rest here between you, and that you are no more a judge for any of them than they are for you. Men in all religions have equally strong persuasions, and every one must judge for himself; nor can any one judge for another, and you least of all for the magistrate; the ground you build upon, that “firmness and stability of persuasion in the highest degree of assurance leaves no doubt, can never be had of a false religion” being false; all your talk of full assurance pointing out to the magistrate the true religion that he is obliged by force to promote, amounts to no more but his own religion, and can point out no other to him.
However, in the next paragraph, you go on with your specimen, and tell me, “Hence appears the impertinency of all I discourse, p. 143, 144, concerning the difference between faith and knowledge: where the thing I was concerned to make out, if I would speak to the purpose, was no other but this, that there are as clear and solid grounds for the belief of false religions, as there are for the belief of the true: or that men both as firmly and as rationally believe and embrace false religions as they can the true. This, you confess, is a point, which, you say, when I have well cleared and established it, will do my business, but nothing else will. And therefore my talk of faith and knowledge; however it may amuse such as are prone to admire all that I say; will never enable me, before better judges, from the duty of every magistrate to use moderate penalties for promoting the true religion, to infer the same obligation to lie upon every magistrate in respect of his religion, whatever it be.”
Where the impertinency lies will be seen when it is remembered, that the question between us is not what religion has the most clear and solid grounds for the belief of it; much less whether “there are as clear and solid grounds for the belief of false religions, as there are for the belief of the true,” i. e. whether falsehood has as much truth in it as truth itself? A question, which, I guess, no man but one of your great pertinency, could ever have proposed. But the question here between you and me, is what must point out to the magistrate that religion which he is by force to promote, that so he may be able to perform the duty that you pretend is incumbent on him by the law of nature; and here I proved, that having no certain demonstrative knowledge of the true religion, all that was left him to determine him in the application of force (which you make the proper instrument of promoting the true religion) for the promoting the true religion, was only his persuasion, belief, or assurance of the true religion, which was always his own; and so in this state the religion, which by force the magistrates of the world must of necessity promote, must be either their own or none at all. Thus the argument standing between us, I am apt to think the world may be of opinion, that it had been pertinent to your cause to have answered my argument, if you had any thing to answer; which since you have not done, this specimen also of the facility, wherewith you can answer all I have said in the third Letter, may be joined to the former, and be a specimen of something else than what you intended it. For in truth, sir, the endeavouring to set up a new question absurd in itself, and nothing at all to the purpose, without offering any thing to clear the difficulty you were pressed with; will to understanding readers appear pertinent in one who sets himself up for an arrant Drawcansir, and is giving specimens of himself, that nothing can stand in his way.
It is with the same pertinency, that to this proposition, “that there are as clear and solid grounds for the belief of a false religion as there are for the belief of the true,” you join this following as an equivalent, “Or that men may both as firmly and as rationally believe and embrace false religions as they can the true:” and you would fain have it thought that your cause is gained, unless I will maintain these two absurd propositions, which my argument has nothing to do with.
And you seem to me to build upon these two false propositions:
1. That in the want of knowledge and certainty of which is the true religion, nothing is fit to set the magistrate upon doing his duty in employing of force to make men consider and embrace the true religion, but the highest persuasion and full assurance of its truth. Whereas his own persuasion of the truth of his own religion, in what degree soever it be, so he believes it to be true; will, if he thinks it his duty by force to promote the true, be sufficient to set him on work. Nor can it be otherwise, since his own persuasion of his own religion, which he judges so well grounded as to venture his future state upon it, cannot but be sufficient to set him upon doing what he takes to be his duty in bringing others to the same religion.
II. Another false supposition you build upon is this, that the true religion is always embraced with the firmest assent. There is scarce any one so little acquainted with the world, that hath not met with instances of men most unmoveably confident, and fully assured in a religion which was not the true. Nor is there among the many absurd religions of the world, almost any one that does not find votaries to lay down their lives for it: and if that be not firm persuasion and full assurance that is stronger than the love of life, and has force enough to make a man throw himself into the arms of death, it is hard to know what is firm persuasion and full assurance. Jews and mahometans have frequently given instances of this highest degree of persuasion. And the bramins religion in the East is entertained by its followers with no less assurance of its truth, since it is not unusual for some of them to throw themselves under the wheels of a mighty chariot, wherein they on solemn days draw the image of their God about in procession, there to be crushed to death, and sacrifice their lives in honour of the God they believe in. If it be objected, that those are examples of mean and common men; but the great men of the world, and the heads of societies, do not so easily give themselves up to a confirmed bigotry. I answer, The persuasion they have of the truth of their own religion, is visibly strong enough to make them venture themselves, and use force to others upon the belief of it. Princes are made like other men; believe upon the like grounds that other men do; and act as warmly upon that belief, though the grounds of their persuasion be in themselves not very clear, or may appear to others to be not of the utmost solidity. Men act by the strength of their persuasion, though they do not always place their persuasion and assent on that side on which, in reality, the strength of truth lies. Reasons that are not thought of, nor heard of, nor rightly apprehended, nor duly weighed, make no impression on the mind: and truth, how richly soever stored with them, may not be assented to, but lie neglected. The only difference between princes and other men herein, is this, that princes are usually more positive in matters of religion, but less instructed. The softness and pleasures of a court, to which they are usually abandoned when young; and affairs of state which wholly possess them when grown up; seldom allow any of them time to consider and examine that they may embrace the true religion. And here your scheme, upon your own supposition, has a fundamental errour that overturns it. For your affirming that force, your way applied, is the necessary and competent means to bring men to the true religion; you leave magistrates destitute of these necessary and competent means of being brought to the true religion, though that be the readiest way, in your scheme the only way, to bring other men to it, and is contended for by you as the only method.
But further, you will perhaps be ready to reply, that you do not say barely, that men may not as firmly, but that they cannot as firmly and rationally, believe and embrace false religions as they can the true. This, be it as true as it will, is of no manner of advantage to your cause. For here the question, necessary to be considered in your way of arguing, returns upon you, who must be judge whether the magistrate believes and embraces his religion rationally or no? If he himself be judge, then he does act rationally, and it must have the same operation on him, as if it were the most rational in the world; if you must be judge for him, whether his belief be rational or no, why may not others judge for him as well as you? or at least he judge for you, as well as you for him; at least till you have produced your patent of infallibility and commission of superintendency over the belief of the magistrates of the earth, and shown the commission whereby you are appointed the director of the magistrates of the world in their belief, which is or is not the true religion? Do not think this said without cause; your whole discourse here has no other tendency, but the making yourself judge of what religion should be promoted by the magistrate’s force; which, let me tell you by the way, every warm zealot in any religion has as much right to be as you. 1 beseech you tell me, are you not persuaded, nay fully assured, that the church of England is in the right, and all that dissent from her are in the wrong: Why else would you have force used to make them consider and conform? If then the religion of the church of England be, as you are fully assured, the only true religion, and the magistrate must ground his persuasion of the truth of his religion on such clear and solid proofs as the true religion alone has, and no false one can have; and by that persuasion the magistrate must be directed in the use of force, (for all this in effect you say, in the sixth and beginning of the seventh page;) what is this but covertly to say, that it is the duty of all magistrates to use force to bring men to embrace the religion of the church of England? Which, since it plainly follows from your doctrine, and I think you cannot deny to be your opinion, and what in effect you contend for; you will do well to speak it out in plain words, and then there will need no more to be said in the question.
And now I desire it may be considered, what advantage this supposition of force, which is supposed put into the magistrate’s hands by the law of nature to be used in religion, brings to the true religion, when it arms five hundred magistrates against the true religion, who must unavoidably in the state of things in the world act against it, for one that uses force for it. I say that this use of force in the magistrate’s hand, is barely supposed by you from the benefit it is like to produce; but it being demonstration, that the prejudice that will accrue to the true religion from such an use of force, is five hundred times more than the advantage can be expected from it; the natural and unavoidable inference from your own ground of benefit, is, that God never gave any such power to the magistrate; and there it will rest till you can by some better argument prove the magistrate to have such a power: to which give me leave to add one word more.
You say the magistrate is obliged by the law of nature to use force to promote the true religion; must he stand still and do nothing till he certainly know which is the true religion? If so, the commission is lost, and he can never do his duty; for to certain knowledge of the true religion, he can in this world never arrive. May he then act upon “firm persuasions and full assurance, grounded upon such clear and solid proofs as the true religion alone has, and no false one can have?” And then indeed you have distinguished yourself into a safe retreat. For who can doubt but your third sort or degree of persuasion, if that be your meaning, will determine the magistrate to the true religion, when it is grounded on those which are the proofs only of the true religion; which if it be all that you intend by your full assurance, (which is the title you give to this your third sort or degree of persuasion,) I must desire you to apply this in answer to my argument. I say, magistrates in general have nothing to determine them in their application of force but their own persuasion; and your answer is, the magistrates of the true religion have their own persuasion to determine them; but of all the other magistrates, which are above an hundred, I might say a thousand to one, you say nothing at all; and thus, by the help of a distinction, the question is resolved. I say, the magistrates are not in a capacity to perform their duty, if they be obliged to use force to promote the true religion, since they have nothing to determine them but their own persuasion of the truth of any religion; which, in the variety of religions which the magistrates of the world have embraced, cannot direct them to the true. Yes, say you, their persuasion, who have embraced the true religion, will direct them to the true religion. Which amounts at last to no more but this, That the magistrate that is in the right, is in the right. A very true proposition without doubt; but whether it removes the difficulty I proposed, any better than begging the question, you were best consider. There are five hundred magistrates of false religions for one that is of the true; I speak much within compass; it is a duty incumbent on them all, say you, to use force to bring men to the true religion. My question is, how can this be compassed by men who are unavoidably determined by the persuasion of the truth of their own religion? It is answered, they who are of the true religion will perform their duty. A great advantage surely to true religion, and worth the contending for, that it should be the magistrate’s duty to use force for promoting the true religion, when in the state of things that is at present in the world, and always hitherto has been, one magistrate in five hundred will use force to promote the true religion, and the other four hundred ninety-nine to promote false ones.
But perhaps you will tell me, That you do not allow that magistrates, who are of false religions, should be determined by their own persuasions, which are “built upon slight appearances of probability; but such as are grounded upon clear and solid proofs,” which the true religion alone has. In answer to this, I ask, Who must be judge whether his persuasion be grounded on clear and solid proofs; the magistrate himself, or you for him? If the magistrate himself, then we are but where we were; and all that you say here, with the distinction that you have made about several sorts of persuasion, serves only to lead us about to the same place: for the magistrate, of what religion soever, must, notwith standing all you have said, be determined by his own persuasion. If you say you must be judge of the clearness and solidity of the proofs upon which the magistrate grounds the belief of his own religion, it is time you should produce your patent, and show the commission whereby you act.
There are other qualifications you assign of the proof, on which you tell us “your third sort or degree of persuasion is grounded; and that is such as leaves no reasonable doubt in an attentive and unbiassed mind:” which, unless you must be judge what is a reasonable doubt, and which is an attentive and unbiassed mind, will do you no manner of service. If the magistrate must be judge for himself in this case, you can have nothing to say to him; but if you must be judge, then any doubt about your religion will be unreasonable, and his not embracing and promoting your religion, will be want of attention and an unbiassed mind. But let me tell you, give but the same liberty of judging for the magistrate of your religion to the men of another religion, which they have as much right to as you have to judge for the magistrate of any other religion in the points mentioned; all this will return upon you. Go into France, and try whether it be not so. So that your plea for the magistrate’s using force for promoting the true religion, as you have stated it, gives as much power and authority to the king of France to use it against his dissenting subjects, as to any other prince in Christendom to use it against theirs; name which you please.
The fallacy in making it the magistrate’s duty to promote by force the only true religion lies in this, that you allow yourself to suppose the magistrate, who is of your religion, to be well-grounded, attentive and unbiassed, and fully and firmly assured that his religion is true; but that other magistrates of other religions different from yours are not so: which, what is it but to erect yourself into a state of infallibility above all other men of different persuasions from yours, which yet they have as good a title to as yourself?
Having thus advanced yourself into the chair, and given yourself the power of deciding for all men which is, and which is not, the true religion; it is not to be wondered that you so roundly pronounce all my discourse, p. 143, 144, “concerning the difference between faith and knowledge, to be impertinency;” and so magisterially to tell me, “that the thing I was there concerned to make out, if I would speak to the purpose, was no other but this, that there are as clear and as solid grounds for the belief of false religions, as there are for belief of the true: or, that men may both as firmly and as rationally believe and embrace false religions as they can the true.”
The impertinency in these two or three pages, I shall leave to shift for itself in the judgment of any indifferent reader; and will only, at present, examine what you tell “I was concerned to make out, if I would speak to the purpose.”
My business there was to prove, That the magistrate being taught that it was his duty to use force to promote the true religion, it would thence unavoidably follow, that not having knowledge of the truth of any religion, but only belief that it was true, to determine him in his application of force; he would take himself in duty bound to promote his own religion by force; and thereupon force would inevitably be used to promote false religions, upon those very grounds upon which you pretend to make it serviceable only to the true: and this, I suppose, I have in those pages evidently proved, though you think not fit to give any other answer to what I there say, but that it is impertinent; and I should have proved something else, which you would have done well, by a plain and clear deduction, to have shown from my words.
[the two following leaves of the copy are either lost or mislaid.]
After this new invention of yours, “of answering by specimen,” so happily found out for the ease of yourself and other disputants of renown, that shall please to follow it; I cannot presume you should take notice of any thing I have to say: you have assumed the privilege, by showing your strength against one argument, to pronounce all the rest baffled; and therefore to what purpose is it to offer difficulties to you, who can blow them all off with a breath? But yet, to apologize for myself to the world, for being of opinion that it is not always from want of consideration, attention, or being unbiassed, that men with firmness of persuasion embrace, and with full assurance adhere to, the wrong side in matters of religion; I shall take the liberty to offer the famous instance of the two Reynolds’s, brothers, both men of learning and parts; whereof the one being of the church of England, and the other of the church of Rome, they both desiring each other’s conversion to the religion which he himself was of, writ to one another about it, and that with such appearance of solid and clear grounds on both sides, that they were wrought upon by them: each changed his religion, and that with so firm a persuasion and full an assurance of the truth of that which he turned to, that no endeavours or arguments of either of them could ever after move the other, or bring him back from what he had persuaded him to. If now I should ask to which of these two, full assurance pointed out the true religion; you no doubt, if you would answer at all, would say, To him that embraced the church of England, and a papist would say the other; but if an indifferent man were asked whether this full assurance was sufficient to point out the true religion to either of them, he must answer, No; for if it were, they must necessarily have been both of the same religion.
To sum up then what you answer to my saying, “It cannot be the magistrate’s duty to use force to promote the true religion, because he is not in a capacity to perform that duty; for not having a certain knowledge, but only his own persuasion to point out to him which is the true religion, if he be satisfied it is his duty to use force to promote the true religion, it will inevitably follow, that he must always use it to promote his own.” To which you answer, That a persuasion of a low degree is not sufficient to point out that religion to the megistrate which he is to promote by force; but that a “firmness and stability of persuasion, a full assurance, is that which is to point out to the magistrate that religion which he is by force to promote.” Where if by firmness and stability of persuasion and full assurance, you mean what the words import; it is plain you confess the magistrate’s duty is to promote his own religion by force; for that is the religion which his firm persuasion and full assurance points out to him. If by full assurance you mean any thing but the strength of persuasion; you contradict all that you have said about firmness and stability, and degrees of persuasion; and having in that sense allowed the sufficiency of my division, where I say, “knowledge or opinion must point out that religion to him, which he is by force to promote;” retract it again, and instead thereof, under the name of full assurance, you substitute and put in true religion; and so firmness of persuasion is in effect laid by, and nothing but the name made use of: for pray tell me, is firmness of persuasion, or being of the true religion, either of them by itself sufficient to point out to the magistrate that religion which it is his duty to promote by force? For they do not always go together. If being of the true religion by itself may do it; your mentioning firmness of persuasion, grounded on solid proof that leaves no doubt, is to no purpose, but to mislead your reason; for every one that is of the true religion, does not arrive at that high degree of persuasion, that full assurance which approaches that which is very near to that which is produced by demonstration. And in this sense of full assurance, which you say men may have of the true religion, and can never have of a false one; your answer amounts to this, that full assurance, in him that embraces the true religion, will point out the religion he is by force to promote: where it is plain, that by fulness of assurance you do mean not the firmness of his persuasion that points out to him the religion which he is by force to promote, (for any lower degree of persuasion to him that embraces the true religion would do it as certainly, and to one that embraces not the true religion, the highest degree of persuasion would even in your opinion do nothing at all;) but his being of the true religion, is that which alone guides him to his duty of promoting the true religion by force. So that to my question, how shall a magistrate who is persuaded that it is his and every magistrate’s duty to promote the true religion by force, be determined in his use of force; you seem to say his firm persuasion or full assurance of the truth of the religion he so promotes must determine him; and presently, in other words, you seem to lay the stress upon his actually being of the true religion. The first of these answers is not true; for I have shown that firmness of persuasion may and does point out to magistrates false religions as well as the true: and the second is much what the same, as if to one, who should ask what should enable a man to find the right way who knows it not, it should be answered, the being in it. One of these must be your meaning, choose which you please of them; if you have any meaning at all in your sixth, and beginning of the seventh page, to which I refer the reader; where, if he find nothing else, he cannot fail to find a specimen of school-play, of talking uncertainly in the utmost perfection, nicely and artificially worded, that it may serve for a specimen of a master-piece in that kind; but a specimen of the answerableness of my Letter will require, as I imagine, a little more plain-dealing. And to satisfy readers, that have not attained to the admiration of skilfully saying nothing, you must directly inform them, whether firmness of persuasion be or be not sufficient in a magistrate to enable him to do his duty in promoting the true religion by force; or else this you have pitched on will scarce be a sample of the answerableness of all I have said.
But you stand positive in it, and that is like a master, that it cannot be inferred from the magistrate’s being obliged to promote by force the true religion, that every magistrate is obliged to promote by force his own religion. And that for the same reason you had given before, more perplexed and obscurely, viz. “Because there is this perpetual advantage on the side of the true religion, that it may and ought to be believed on clear and solid grounds, such as will appear the more so, the more they are examined: whereas no other religion can be believed so, but upon such appearances only, as will not bear a just examination.”
This would be an answer to what I have said, if it were so that all magistrates saw the preponderancy of the grounds of belief, which are on the side of the true religion; but since it is not the grounds and reasons of a truth that are not seen, that do or can set the magistrate upon doing his duty in the case; but it is the persuasion of the mind, produced by such reasons and grounds as do affect it, that alone does, or is capable to determine the magistrate in the use of force, for performing of his duty; it necessarily follows, that if two magistrates have equally strong persuasions concerning the truth of their religions respectively, they must both be set on work thereby, or neither; for though one be of a false, and the other of the true religion; yet the principle of operation, that alone which they have to determine them, being equal in both, they must both be determined by it; unless it can be said, that one of them must act according to that principle, which alone can determine; and the other must act against it: that is, do what he cannot do; be determined to one thing, by what at the same time determines him to another. From which incapacity in magistrates to perform their duty by force to promote the true religion, I think it may justly be concluded, that to use force for the promoting any religion cannot be their duty.
You tell us, it is by the law of nature magistrates are obliged to promote the true religion by force. It must be owned, that if this be an obligation of the law of nature, very few magistrates overlook it; so forward are they to promote that religion by force which they take to be true. This being the case, I beseech you tell me what was Huaina Capac, emperor of Peru, obliged to do? Who, being persuaded of his duty to promote the true religion, was not yet within distance of knowing or so much as hearing of the christian religion, which really is the true (so far was he from a possibility to have his belief grounded upon the solid and clear proofs of the true religion.) Was he to promote the true religion by force? That he neither did nor could know any thing of; so that was morally impossible for him to do. Was he to sit still in the neglect of his duty incumbent on him? That is in effect to suppose it a duty and no duty at the same time. If, upon his not knowing which is the true religion, you allow it not his duty to promote it by force, the question is at an end: you and I are agreed, that it is not the magistrate’s duty by force to promote the true religion. If you hold it in that case to be his duty; what remains for him to do, but to use force to promote that religion which he himself is strongly, nay, perhaps to the highest degree of firmness, persuaded is the true? Which is the granting what I contend for, that, if the magistrate be obliged to promote by force the true religion, it will thence follow, that he is obliged to promote by force that religion which he is persuaded is the true; since, as you will have it, force was given him to that end, and it is his duty to use it; and he hath nothing else to determine it to that end but his own persuasion. So that one of these two things must follow, either that in that case it ceases to be his duty, or else he must promote his own religion; choose you which you please * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
C. Baldwin, Printer, New Bridge-street, London.